General practices have been given the green light to begin inviting patients over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable for Covid vaccinations from today.
The JCVI’s top two groups remain the ‘priority’ but PCN groupings with ‘enough supply and capacity’ can begin vaccinating the next two cohorts, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
It comes as Nursing in Practice‘s sister publication Pulse revealed on Friday that practices could begin inviting patients from priority cohort three – those over 75 – to receive unused Covid vaccines.
The DHSC today announced that the NHS will ‘accelerate’ vaccination of those most at risk, which was previously concentrated on the JCVI’s first two priority groups – care home residents and staff, over 80s and frontline health and social care workers.
Vaccination sites that ‘have enough supply and capacity for vaccinating further people’ are now ‘allowed’ to roll out first doses to patients over 70 and those who have been shielding, although vaccinating the first two groups ‘will remain the priority’, it said.
However, the DHSC said earlier this month that patients clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 should continue to shield even after being fully vaccinated against the virus.
GPs should continue to offer the vaccine to each priority group in the order set out by the JCVI, the DHSC added.
The programme’s expansion will allow areas that have already given a first dose to ‘the majority’ of priority groups one and two to ‘keep up the momentum’, it said.
Over 3.8 million people in the UK have so far received their first vaccine dose and the NHS ‘remains on track’ to vaccinate the top four cohorts by 15 February, the DHSC added.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Now that more than half of all over-80s have had their jab, we can begin vaccinating the next most vulnerable groups. Where an area has already reached the vast majority of groups 1-2, they can now start opening up the programme to groups 3-4.
‘We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February and our NHS heroes are making huge strides in making this happen.’
He added: ‘This measure does not mean our focus on getting care homes, healthcare staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering – it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks to reach the rest of these groups.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added that the vaccine is now being delivered ‘at a rate of 140 jabs a minute’ and thanked those involved for the ‘national effort’.
It comes as the Government has appealed to the public to ‘help out’ by ‘encouraging’ those over 80 to book their vaccination appointments and supporting them with planning such as transport to and from vaccination sites.
Last week, Public Health England (PHE) data revealed the progress on Covid vaccinations so far, with the North East taking the lead.
JCVI priority groups:
1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
3. all those 75 years of age and over
4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
5. all those 65 years of age and over
6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
7. all those 60 years of age and over
8. all those 55 years of age and over
9. all those 50 years of age and over