All adults in England are now eligible to book a Covid vaccination appointment, the NHS has announced.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said all those aged 18 or over were now being urged to get a jab if they have not yet had one.
Texts will be sent out to 1.5 million 18-to-20-year-olds from today (Friday 18 June) in what he described as a ‘watershed moment’.
Demand is expected to be high after more than a million people booked a vaccine slot in the first day of the programme being opened to the over 25s last week.
Current figures show 80% of the adult population in the UK have had a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine with 58% having had two doses, although there is variation between different areas of the country.
Vaccine appointments had already been opened to all over 18 year olds in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is currently considering shortening the vaccine interval to eight weeks for all eligible adults and is also due to make a decision on vaccination of teenagers.
Data suggests an exponential increase in infections as a result of the now dominant Delta variant. Public Health England analyses suggest two doses of either Astra Zeneca or Pfizer are more than 90% effective against the strain.
It is less than 200 days since the first person was vaccinated against Covid-19 as the programme was rolled out in December 2020 with 72 million vaccines now administered across the UK.
People aged 39 or under will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in line with JCVI recommendations.
Sir Simon described the latest move as a ‘final push’ to protect the country.
‘Only months after delivering the world-first first jab hard working NHS staff have given more than 60 million vaccinations in England alone, saving thousands of lives and giving the entire country hope for a brighter future,’ he said.
‘Extensive planning and the tireless hard work of staff and volunteers have made the NHS vaccine programme an historic success.
NHS England lead for the Covid Vaccination Programme, Dr Emily Lawson, added: ‘We’re in the final weeks of this historic drive to get everyone aged 18 and over their first Covid-19 vaccine, having already vaccinated more than three quarters of the population in only six months, and ensured that over half the country has had their second jab too.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock said so far the vaccination campaign had saved more than 14,000 lives and prevented 42,000 hospitalisations in England alone.
‘In our race between the vaccine and the virus, we’re approaching the final stretch and we are doing all we can to vaccinate people as quickly as possible with first and second doses. When you get the call, get the jab so we can put this pandemic behind us for good.’