After announcing that the target to reach over-50s had been reached ahead of the April 15 deadline, the National Health Service (NHS) in England extended the COVID-19 vaccination program to the next generation on its age-based priority list, which now includes anyone over 45 years old.
The government had set a deadline of this Thursday for all people over 50, the clinically disadvantaged, and health and social care staff – about 32 million people – to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 40 million vaccine doses have now been distributed throughout the United Kingdom, according to the NHS.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the achievement as “another hugely important accomplishment,” adding that the emphasis now will be on completing critical second doses and meeting the goal of providing vaccines to all adults by the end of July.
“Vaccines against COVID-19 have been provided to more than 32 million people, providing invaluable protection.” “I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the vaccine rollout, which has already saved thousands of lives,” he said.
The new landmark, according to NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, means that 19 of the 20 people most at risk from COVID-19 have already been vaccinated.
“The NHS COVID vaccination program is without a doubt the most effective in our history, thanks to our NHS nurses, physicians, pharmacists, operational managers, and thousands of other staff and volunteers,” Stevens said.
“It’s one of our tickets out of this pandemic,” he said, “and it provides real hope for the future.”
The news comes as England begins to administer the first doses of the Moderna vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine in the UK’s rollout, which started in Wales earlier this year.
Along with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it will be available at 21 locations throughout England. Following concerns about a “possible” connection to extremely rare blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine, as vaccines are extended to the under-30s age group, they will be given either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stated that the vaccine’s benefits appear to outweigh any risks, but that those aged 18 to 29 in the United Kingdom will be given an alternative vaccine, if one is appropriate, as a precautionary measure before further research is completed.