Published: 10:04, 13 April 2021
| Updated: 11:32, 13 April 2021
The NHS is inviting people over the age of 45 to book a Covid-19 vaccine appointment.
It signals the start of phase two of the mammoth vaccination programme - which involves offering vaccines to healthy adults aged under 50, as the government aims to offer the jab to every UK adult by the end of July.
The move comes as it was announced the Government has met its target of offering the vaccine to all adults over the age of 50, which the Prime Minister hailed a “hugely significant milestone”.
Until now, the NHS had been focusing on offering vaccines to those deemed to be at highest risk - people over the age of 50, the “clinically extremely vulnerable”, and health and social care workers.
But the second phase of the vaccine programme will see jabs offered to those under 50 years old, starting with those aged 40-49 before moving to those aged 30-39, and those 18 years old and above.
When the NHS online booking system opened up to those over the age of 45, the website crashed for many.
As of last week, more than one million vaccines have now been administered in Kent.
But the number of jabs given in the county has dropped by 54% week-on-week.
An earlier warning by the NHS in England said April would see a “significant reduction in weekly supply", meaning volumes for first doses would be “significantly constrained”.
Kent Community Health Foundation Trust is running large public Covid-19 vaccination centres in the county, in Folkestone, Gravesend, Chatham, Tonbridge and Thanet.
Its website says: "In line with national vaccine supply, there will be limited appointments for first doses at our large vaccination centres throughout April.
"Second doses are not affected. If you have a second dose booked at any site, please attend."
In a statement, Boris Johnson said the Government remains on course to offer a first jab to all adults in the UK by the end of July.
It has been estimated that in England, 19 in 20 of those who have already been offered the jab have taken up the offer.
One vaccination expert said that it was “vitally important” to vaccinate “the last few per cent”, or they could get infected and end up in hospital.
Professor Jeremy Brown, from University College London Hospitals and member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told the Today programme: “The problem here is that 5-10% have not been vaccinated.
“When the virus re-circulates through the community they could get infected and end up in hospital.
“So it’s vitally important that we get that last few per cent.”
Meanwhile, new research has suggested the coronavirus variant first detected in Kent, which is now dominant in the UK and a number of other countries, is more transmissible than other strains but does not increase disease severity.
If you're aged 45 or over, or extremely clinically vulnerable, or a frontline health or social care worker you can book your vaccination now online or by calling 119.
Anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable or a frontline health and social care worker must bring proof of either their condition or employment with them.