Coronavirus | U.K. expands COVID-19 vaccine programme to all above 45 years of age

The NHS confirmed that nearly 40 million vaccine doses had now been administered across the U.K.

The National Health Service (NHS) in England on Tuesday expanded the COVID-19 vaccination programme to the next cohort on its age-based priority list to all above 45 years of age, after it announced that the target to cover over-50s had been met ahead of the April 15 deadline.

The government had set a target to offer a COVID-19 jab to all above 50 years, the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers – about 32 million people – by this Thursday.

The NHS confirmed that nearly 40 million vaccine doses had now been administered across the U.K.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed "another hugely significant milestone", adding that the focus would now be on completing essential second doses as well as to meet the target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July.

"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,” he said.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the latest milestone means that 19 out of 20 of those most at risk from COVID-19 had now been vaccinated.

"Thanks to our NHS nurses, doctors, pharmacists, operational managers and thousands of other staff and volunteers, the NHS COVID vaccination programme is without a doubt the most successful in our history," said Stevens.

"It’s one of our tickets out of this pandemic and offers real hope for the future," he said.

The announcement comes as England began giving out its first doses of the Moderna vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K.’s rollout that had been launched in Wales earlier.

It will be available at 21 sites across England, along with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Under the new regulatory guidance, when vaccines are expanded to the under-30s age group, they would be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs after concerns about a “possible” link to very rare blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has insisted that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh any risks, but said those aged 18-29 in the U.K. will be offered an alternative vaccine instead, where available, as an added precaution until further investigations remain ongoing.

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