Covid: Over-70s in England asked to contact NHS for vaccine appointment

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

People over the age of 70 who have not yet been offered a Covid jab are being encouraged to contact the NHS to arrange an appointment.

The health service in England has changed its messaging from “we will contact you” to “contact us” for those over the age of 70, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

It comes as the government is just days away from saying whether or not it has met its target for offering all people in the top four priority groups the Covid jab before the middle of February.

At the moment the focus remains on the top four of nine Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) nine groups, which include all those over 70, health and social care workers, care home residents, their carers and people deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus.

The prime minister set a target for all the people in these group to be offered a Covid-19 vaccine by February 15.

Speaking at a Covid-19 Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said the country was "turning a corner" as he announced one in four adults in UK are now vaccinated.

He said 91% of over-80s and and 93% of eligible care home residents have had their first dose of the vaccine, 95% of those aged 75-79, and almost three quarters of those aged 70-74.

“We have now, as of today, vaccinated more than 12.2 million people – that’s almost one in four of all adults across the United Kingdom," Mr Hancock said.

In order not to overwhelm the NHS the initial messaging to the public was to wait until the NHS contacted them about their vaccine.

Barrie Reader, aged 74, gets his first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Yui Mok/PA

But the health service is now calling for those aged over 70 who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 to contact the NHS to arrange a jab.

They can book their appointments using the website or those unable to get online can call 119.

If a suitable and convenient slot is not available people can also call their GP practice.

“Take-up of the vaccine so far has been significantly better than we hoped for," Mr Hancock said.

He continued: “Based on the work we had done before the vaccination programme started and looking at the surveys, we knew that the UK had one of the most positive attitudes to vaccine uptake, but even so we thought we would get take-up of around 75%.

Matt Hancock and Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van Tam during a media briefing in Downing Street, London on 8 Feb. Credit: PA

“I’m really pleased to be able to tell you that as of midnight last night, among the over-80s, we have now given a first dose to 91%.

“Among those aged between 75 and 79, it is 95%, and almost three-quarters of those aged between 70 and 74 who were the most recent group to be invited.”

Calling on over-70s to contact the NHS to get their jab, rather than wait to be contacted, he said: "From today, I have a message for everyone aged 70 and above. Until now we've said please wait for the NHS to contact you."

"Now that message is changing."

Standing alongside Mr Hancock, deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam attempted to allay fears over the South African variant of coronavirus in light of a study that found the the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab to be less effective against the variant.

Prof Van-Tam told the No. 10 press briefing that the South African variant does not have a “transmissibility advantage” over the dominant UK strain, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine was still “rather likely” to have an effect on “serious disease”.

He said that if the variant did become more prevalent in the UK, people in high-risk groups may need annual or biennial booster jabs.

“Just as variations to the virus were inevitable it’s almost inevitable that at some point we will need variations to the vaccine. This is not a big fright, it is not a big surprise,” he said.