People aged 44 are being invited to book their Covid-19 vaccine in England from Monday 26 April.
Around half a million 44-year-olds will receive a text inviting them to get their jab through the national booking service, NHS England said.
The decision to move to people aged 40-43 will be set out in the coming days, with the NHS vaccinating in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and as supplies allow.
It is the first time that the vaccine rollout in England has been extended by a single year – previously, the age-based approach to the programme had offered the jab to people in age brackets; the last cohort offered the jab was those aged 45 to 49.
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NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Thanks to NHS staff, people aged 45-49 have been hot on the heels of millions of people most at risk who were quick to take up the offer of a vaccine with more than two thirds getting their lifesaving jab, marking another medically important milestone in the biggest vaccination campaign in NHS history.
“When the time comes, and you get that text, book an appointment to get your vaccine – it is the best protection you and your loved ones will receive from this deadly virus.”
‘Every vaccination gives us hope’
A UK Government campaign – called “every vaccination gives us hope” – sees the launch of a TV advert which will showcase the health workers and volunteers involved in the vaccination rollout across the UK.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the campaign will predominantly be aimed at people under the age of 50 who will be offered their first dose, as well as the over-50s who are booked in for their second dose, to encourage vaccine uptake.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “It is testament to the hard work of NHS staff that we are now able to vaccinate people in the next age group.
“If you are aged 44, when you are invited to do so, please do book your jab as appointments become available – it is simple, effective and provides vital protection against the coronavirus.”
Over the weekend, figures confirmed more than half of the UK’s total population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Government data up to April 24 shows that of the 46,253,754 jabs given in the UK so far, 33,666,638 were first doses – a rise of 142,215 on the previous day.
Dire situation in India
The push for people to take up jab offers comes as restrictions ease in Wales and Scotland, and as Britain sends more than 600 pieces of urgently-needed medical equipment to India following a devastating surge in coronavirus cases.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the first of nine plane-loads of life-saving kit – including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – will arrive in New Delhi early on Tuesday.
The move follows discussions with the Indian government, with further consignments due be dispatched later this week.
For the fourth straight day on Sunday, India set a global daily record for new infections, with another 349,691 confirmed cases.
It took the country’s total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, NationalWorld