Everyone aged 50 and over has been offered a coronavirus jab – hitting the Government’s April 15 target with three days to spare as under-50s prepare to get injected.
Ministers had announced the plan to offer 32million adults – including frontline health and care staff, those with underlying conditions, care and nursing home residents and all adults over-50 – a vaccine by the middle of this month.
Latest figures show 32,190,576 first doses and 7,656,205 second jabs have been administered.
Boris Johnson tonight said the “hugely significant milestone” had been reached ahead of schedule.
That clears the way for the second phase of the vaccine rollout – the remaining adults under-50 will start being summoned from inoculations within days.
The Prime Minister said: “We have now passed another hugely significant milestone in our vaccine programme by offering jabs to everyone in the nine highest risk groups.
“That means more than 32 million people have been given the precious protection vaccines provide against Covid-19.
“I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccine rollout which has already saved many thousands of lives.
“We will now move forward with completing essential second doses and making progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July.”
The Government’s expert advisory body on jabs, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is expected to publish its final guidance on how those aged under-50 should be inoculated.
It will pave the way for the next phase of the unprecedented vaccination programme – and the JCVI will advise whether any groups or professions should be prioritised.
But the JCVI has previously said it expects not to prioritise any professions and simply vaccinate by age, starting with over-40s.
And it is understood people in their late 40s are the most likely to be invited to book their jabs first – with the next phase of the vaccine programme expected to begin this week.
In the JCVI’s interim plans, those aged 40 to 49 would get the jab first in phase two, followed by 30-39s then 18-29s.
Under-30s will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, as they face a one-in-100,000 risk of a rare blood clot.
Many people in their 40s have already received a jab if their area is ahead of the national rollout.
However, until now the national booking service has issued strict orders for people to only book an appointment if they were over 50 or had a health condition that made them eligible.
It’s thought that will be opened up to at least some healthy people in their 40s this week – despite a slowdown in supplies during April, which has forced the NHS to focus more on second doses.
Only 111,109 first doses were given out on Saturday, compared to 475,230 second doses.
It seems likely people in their 40s will be split into smaller age bands for vaccine prioritisation – such as 45-49s going first.
Reports have even suggested that only 49-year-olds could be invited to book a vaccine this week.
No10 refused to confirm the plans, saying earlier today: “The first thing is for the JCVI to set out their final advice, and then the NHS who are the operational leads on this will be able to overlay that with detail of what comes next.”
Boris Johnson’s spokesman added: “It’s important to note that the JCVI has not issued its final advice on the second phase of the rollout.
“And that’s the point where you’d expect to see the NHS start to invite more people forward.”