Covid: NHS hopes to drive coronavirus vaccine uptake with text messages

It is hoped the text message service will encourage more people will take up the vaccine. Credit: PA

The NHS is hoping to drive Covid-19 vaccine uptake by sending people text messages and reminders.

Texts will now be sent to almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over and 40,000 unpaid carers, with a weblink so they can reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 vaccination centres or pharmacies across England.

Reminders will then be sent every two to three weeks to encourage people to get their vaccine if they have not taken up the offer.

If the move proves successful, younger people can expect to receive texts ahead of official NHS letters landing on doormats.

Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services are already using text messages to invite people for a vaccine.

Anyone who prefers not to travel to a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led site can choose to wait to be invited by their GP.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our vaccination rollout is moving at a blistering speed and these text alerts will increase the pace by making it even easier for people to get booked in for their jab.

“Thanks to the tireless work of our NHS staff, two in every five adults now have some degree of protection.

“Vaccines are the best way of securing our long-term freedom and will save thousands of lives, so I urge everyone to take up the offer when the text pings into their phone.”

Across the UK to date, more than 22 million people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, continues to go from strength to strength and we are now building on that momentum by trialling a quick and easy service that will hopefully make it more convenient for people to book their life-saving jab.

“I had my vaccine this week – it was simple, quick and painless – and I would encourage others who have not yet taken up the offer to come forward and receive the jab.”

What to say (and not to say) to someone who's reluctant to get their Covid-19 vaccine - Listen to ITV News's podcast: Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

The new text message will be sent using the government’s secure Notify service and will show as being sent from “NHSvaccine”.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “We know that some people are rightly worried about scams going around, but if the message comes from ‘NHSvaccine’ and links to the website you can be sure that it’s the right invite.

“For any messages you might get about the vaccine, always remember that the NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your pin or banking password.

“The NHS will also never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine, or ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.”

Vaccinations are being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, including mosques, museums and rugby grounds.