The coronavirus vaccine programme in England will open up to people over the age of 32 today.
NHS England said around a million adults aged 32 and 33 will start to be invited to come forward for their jab from 7am.
It is the third time the jab drive has been expanded in a week after opening to people under 40 for the first time earlier in the month.
Texts inviting people to book a vaccination will be sent to those aged 33 from today and those aged 32 from Monday.
People who qualify for a jab will invited via a message from ‘NHSvaccine’, which includes a web link to the health service’s online booking service.
Those who can’t access the internet can call 119 instead to get an appointment at one of 1,600 sites administering the vaccines across England.
It came after latest figures showed another 690,000 vaccine doses were administered on Thursday across the UK, with 268,00 more people getting their first dose and 420,000 receiving their second.
The latest figures mean more than 50million doses in total have been administered so far across England, with four in 10 adults fully vaccinated against the disease.
The rapid spread of the Indian variant has given ministers new impetus to get the country vaccinated quickly.
SAGE has warned the new strain is likely already dominant in the UK and some advisers have warned Britain could face a third wave because millions remain unvaccinated.
More than 50million doses in total have been administered so far across , with four in 10 adults fully vaccinated against the disease. In total 37.5m Brits around the UK have had one dose and 21.6m have had two
It is the third time the jab drive has been expanded in a week after opening to people under 40 for the first time earlier in the month
Thirty-two and 33-year-olds will be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine on the back of from medical regulators earlier this month.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said under-40s should be given an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab due to its link to rare blood clots.
NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘Today, the biggest NHS vaccination programme in history hits another milestone as we pass 50 million life-saving jabs delivered across England.
UK’s daily Covid cases creep up by nearly a third in a week to 2,829 but deaths drop again with just nine victims
Britain’s daily Covid cases crept up by nearly a third in a week to 2,829 on Friday, while deaths dipped again to just nine.
For comparison, Department of Health bosses posted 2,193 infections and 17 fatalities last Friday.
Official data also showed another 268,251 first doses and 420,312 second doses were dished out yesterday. More than 37.5million Britons — or seven in ten adults — have been inoculated against Covid.
It came as separate figures suggested England’s Covid outbreak may be on the rise amid surging cases of the Indian variant, despite other figures indicating the nation’s infection numbers are still flat.
No10’s top scientists estimated the R rate — which measures the spread of the virus — is now between 0.9 and 1.1, up from the lower estimate of 0.8 last week. It is the closest the reproduction rate has been to one since the peak of the second wave in January.
Random swabbing by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found almost 50,000 people were infected with the virus on any day last week, or the equivalent of one in every 1,110 people. The estimate is up by 20 per cent on the previous seven-day spell.
The national body, whose estimates are watched closely by ministers, warned it was starting to see a ‘potential increase’. But its head of analytics for the Covid infection survey Sarah Crofts said ‘rates remain low and it is too soon to say if this is the start of a trend’.
‘Over four fifths of people in their forties and over half of people aged 35-39 have now had their first jab, and today we’re extending the offer to 33 year olds.’
GP and national medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani added: ‘It is fantastic to see so many people come forward so quickly to get their lifesaving covid vaccine – this action means that we are protecting our communities against the virus.
‘The offer doesn’t go away so if you are eligible and haven’t booked, please do come forward and do so. It is safe, effective and will protect you and those around you.
‘The success of the programme is no accident as behind each vaccine at each site there is a lot of work and dedication from our staff and from our volunteers – we are so grateful for their continued help.’
The Government has stepped up its attempts to encourage people to come forward for a vaccine after scientists warned of the rise of the Indian Covid variant.
SAGE believes the strain is much more transmissible than the dominant Kent variant but is confident the jabs work well against it.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: ‘Only days after we extended the offer of a vaccine to 34 and 35 year olds, we are now rolling out the invite to 32 and 33 year olds – an incredible step forward in the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history.
‘This is truly a testament to the heroic work of our amazing NHS and care staff, volunteers and local authorities across the country who have helped deliver over 50 million jabs at lightning speed across England, keeping us on track to offer a vaccine to everyone by July.
‘The vaccine has already saved thousands of lives and you are far less likely to get symptoms or be admitted to hospital if you get the jab. Please come forward when you get the offer and join the millions of others who are now protected from this terrible virus.’
It came after SAGE warned yesterday that the Indian coronavirus variant may already be the dominant Covid strain in the UK after growing ‘exponentially’ since March.
Documents published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on Friday said the highly infectious B.1.617.2 strain likely made up the ‘majority’ of the UK’s infections by mid-May.
The SPI-M subgroup modelled the variant’s spread on May 12 based on how rapidly it spiralled last month, and forecast that it would account for more than 50 per cent of cases by the middle of the month.
Its finding suggests the official number of cases reported by Public Health England is an underestimate and says the variant is quickly replacing the current dominant Kent version, which triggered the second wave.
In a separate paper published today, but submitted to ministers on May 11, SAGE warned cases of the Indian variant in Bolton, Bedford and Sefton were ‘increasing apparently exponentially’.
The group called for ‘aggressive use of asymptomatic testing, contact tracing and isolation’ in hotspots and hinted at extending lockdown rules, warning the Government against waiting for more evidence before acting. No10 has already deployed surge testing in a handful of areas where the variant is spreading quickest, including Bolton and Blackburn.
Highlighting SAGE’s fear about the strain, experts wrote: ‘In the face of uncertain evidence the risk of overreacting seems small compared to the potential benefit of delaying a third wave until more people are vaccinated.’
Expert advisers told the Government they believed the current reproduction ‘R’ rate of the Indian variant – how many people on average each patient infects – is around 1.64. They did not give an estimated R for the Kent strain.
They said the new strain appears to be spreading 40 per cent faster than the Kent version but they could not ‘conclude with any certainty’ cannot be certain it is biologically more transmissible.
The Joint Universities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research Group (Juniper) said it was still possible its increased infectivity could be down to superspreader events and socioeconomic factors.
For example a lot of the spread occurring in Bolton is among the town’s Indian population who are statistically more likely to live in high density housing and live with multiple relatives.