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NHS England to invite patients for Covid vaccination via text message


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NHS England will start sending text message invitations for Covid vaccination today, in a bid to make booking a jab ‘quicker and more convenient’.

A trial will see some 400,000 patients aged 55 and over, as well as 40,000 unpaid carers receive the texts, although they will also receive a subsequent invitation letter in the post.

Patients will receive a web link to reserve an appointment at a mass vaccination centre or pharmacy from ‘NHSvaccine’, and reminders will be sent every two to three weeks to encourage people to get the vaccine for those not taking up the offer, NHS England said. 

People should not receive a text message or a letter from the NHS if they have already been vaccinated, it added.

If successful, the new method ‘could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly’, NHS England said.

It added that the texts ‘will help increase uptake of the life-saving jab, particularly as the NHS moves on to younger groups’.

NHS England guidance published yesterday (8 March) clarified that PCNs will be responsible for vaccinating unpaid carers flagged on the GP system, while other unpaid carers will be invited via the national booking service. 

The latter group will include those eligible for a carer’s allowance, on a local authority’s list following a carer’s assessment and those known to and receiving support from local carers organisations.

It comes as NHS England started sending letters inviting patients aged 56-59 to book a Covid jab on Saturday (6 March), with more than eight in 10 people aged 65-69 having already taken up the offer. 

As of today, people aged 55 are also eligible for the jab, NHS England clarified to Pulse, which completes cohort 8 of the JCVI vaccination priority groups.

GP-led vaccination sites are currently focusing on cohort 6 – including over-16s who are clinically vulnerable – but the BMA recently said they can vaccinate everyone in an eligible group.

Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services, which operate their own booking systems, are already using text messages for invites.