Around 74 million vaccine doses have now been administered in the UK since the Covid-19 vaccination programme began its rollout in December last year.
Just over 31 million Brits are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, amounting to 47 per cent of the population.
It is hoped that all adults aged 40 and over will received their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine before the full lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England on 19 July, with the government now speeding up the rollout of second doses in an effort to meet the target.
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The speedy rollout comes amid concerns of rising infection rates across the UK, fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta Covid-19 variant which first originated in India.
Can I book my second dose early?
The government has confirmed that second Covid-19 vaccine doses will be offered to the most vulnerable earlier than originally planned in a bid to try and minimise the risk of any further spread.
This means that appointments for people in the top nine priority groups, which includes the over 50s and clinically vulnerable, will be brought forward from 12 weeks to eight weeks for those yet to receive their second dose.
This is to ensure that people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity.
Government guidance states that people should continue to attend their second dose appointments and they do not need to contact the NHS
Instead, the NHS will let those who should bring their second appointment forward know when they are able to do so, so people do not need to call to book.
What about people not in a priority group?
People who are aged under 50 will continue to get their first dose, with the second dose 12 weeks later, as has been the deployment strategy so far.
Advice on the NHS vaccination booking website states: “We’ll be contacting some people in high-risk groups directly to offer earlier appointments for their 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Please wait to be contacted if you think you’re in this group.
“If you’ve been contacted and you’d like to rebook, you’ll need to cancel your existing appointment before we can offer you new appointments.”
As such, those aged under 50 who are not in clinically vulnerable groups should continue to receive their second doses around 11 to 12 weeks after the first.
In the event these is vaccine still available at the end of a clinic which may be wasted, sites may bring forward second doses for people not in the priority groups, although this should still be as close to 12 weeks as possible.
Calls for people to get vaccinated
Health Secretary Hancock has urged those who are eligible for vaccination, and have not yet booked an appointment, to go and get the jab as he warned against the possible impact of the Delta variant.
The strain is feared to be even more transmissible than the Kent variant, which drove the UK’s deadly second wave of infections over the winter, and is now becoming dominant in some parts of the country.
He warned that the Indian variant can “spread like wildfire” among those who have not been vaccinated, and said there is a “high degree of confidence” that the current vaccines do protect against the variant.
He said: “It’s vital we do everything we can and use every resource we have to ensure we continue to keep the nation safe.
“We have implemented measures at record pace to get on top of this new variant and control the spread.
“Everyone has a role to play in this effort – accept the invite to get a jab when it comes, and if you live in one of the areas where we’ve introduced surge testing, get your free PCR test. Let’s work to fight this together.”
While there is no evidence to show the Delta variant has a greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine, the speed of growth is of note and the government is working quickly to ensure the appropriate action is being taken.
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