More than 64 million people have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, while a further 25 million have had both doses.
People aged between 30 and 31 are the most recent group to be invited for vaccination in England, prompting more than five million appointments to be made through the national booking service within 72 hours.
Since the vaccine rollout was opened up to the over 30s in mid-May, NHS England said some 53 per cent of people aged 30 to 39 have now been given at least one dose.
The UK government is aiming to speed up the rollout of second doses, with the aim of offering the second jab to all over 50s ahead of the planned lifting of lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June.
The speedy rollout comes amid concerns of rising infection rates in parts of the UK, fuelled by the highly transmissible Indian Covid-19.
Can I book my second dose early?
The government has confirmed that second Covid vaccine doses will be offered to the most vulnerable earlier, as part of plans to tackle the rising cases of the Indian variant.
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.
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.
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 Indian Covid 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 Indian 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.
NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said there had already been 930,000 appointments made since the vaccination programme was opened up to 38 and 39-year-olds, and he urged people to come forward when called.
He said: “Getting vaccinated is the most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid 19, so when it is your turn to get your first or second dose please do so.”
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