The NHS will start vaccinating over-65s from next week as part of the next phase of the UK’s vaccination programme.
The Prime Minister has set a deadline of Monday 15 February for offering a first dose of the vaccine to the top four priority groups, including care home staff and residents, all over-70s, frontline NHS and care stand and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
So far, just over 13.5m people out of the 14.9m target have received their first injection, with three days to go.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirmed this morning letters will now be sent out to the fifth priority group.
Once over-65s have been invited, they will then be followed by all those over 16 with underlying health conditions, the over-60s, the over-55s and then the over-50s, as ministers race towards their goal of offering the vaccine to the top nine priority groups by the end of April.
Some parts of England have already begun vaccinating the over-65s with their first dose, having already hit the milestone of reaching everyone in the top four priority groups.
Shropshire, Coventry and Hampshire have already administered first injections to some over-65s, while Nottinghamshire has sent out letters invited them to book an appointment.
Boris Johnson has insisted the aim of the vaccination program is not to “hit some numerical target, but to save lives,” adding that progress so far marked “another step on the long and hard road back to normality”.
He warned that people would likely have to receive booster jabs in the autumn in each year as new Covid variants emerge.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference earlier this week, Johnson said: “As new variants appear, it will be more useful than ever to have vaccines that combat all variants.
“I think we need to be getting ready for a world in which we do have booster jabs against new variants in the autumn and maybe beyond. We should start to think about it as a flu jab — as something elderly and vulnerable people make sure they have every year.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, added that the vaccine will provide further protection against Covid on top of antibodies, noting that past infection of the virus “is not a reason to avoid vaccination”.