Covid vaccine: Over-70s urged to get vaccine as UK nears target

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media captionSir Simon Stevens: "This has been a very encouraging start, and obviously there is much more to do".

People aged 70 or over who have not yet had a Covid jab are being urged to come forward, in a final push by ministers to meet their vaccination target.

More than 14 million people in the UK have had at least one dose - with the aim being 15 million by Monday.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the UK could this year live with Covid "like we do with flu".

"I hope that Covid-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Over the weekend, ministers are taking part in a renewed drive to encourage people in the top four priority groups - comprising of people aged 70 and over, front-line health and social care workers, care home residents and the clinically extremely vulnerable - to get vaccinated.

Vaccinating the 15 million people in these priority groups would cover 88% of those most at risk of dying from Covid-19.

Overall uptake of the vaccine has been high, with a 93% take-up rate among the over-75s in England, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Across the UK, a quarter of adults have already received one dose, including around nine in 10 over-70s.

People aged 70 or over in England have already been asked to contact the NHS to arrange their jab. They can book an appointment online, or by calling 119 or contacting their local GP.

Health and social care workers should speak to their employer if they have not had their vaccine yet, the DHSC said.

And GP teams have been asked to contact their clinically extremely vulnerable patients to make sure they have been offered a jab.

Almost 30 ministers are taking part in visits and virtual meetings across the UK in a further push to encourage everyone eligible for the jab to get vaccinated.

They will hear from NHS staff and volunteers helping with the rollout, as well as people getting the vaccine.

Mr Hancock said: "I am determined that we protect as many of our country's most vulnerable people from this awful disease as soon as possible."

"Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and it is testament to the strength of our Union and the combined power of our United Kingdom that we've seen such incredible progress in the roll-out of our vaccination programme," he added.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said the UK's vaccination programme was "off to a strong start".

"People in the priority groups have not missed their chance to get jabbed and if you are aged 70 and over and haven't yet taken up the offer, please do come forward and make an appointment," he said.

The government has also published a plan to help boost vaccine uptake in all communities, including those who may feel more hesitant about it.

It aims to raise awareness of how the NHS is making vaccination available to all, especially ethnic minorities, homeless people, asylum seekers and those with disabilities.

It highlights successful examples of community-led engagement which other areas could replicate, including a mobile vaccination service in Crawley to help reach those who are housebound and the use of social media resources to dispel vaccine myths in Slough.

About two thirds of care home staff have accepted the offer of a vaccine, Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation JCVI, said.

He rejected suggestions the jab should be made compulsory for those who wish to carry on working in care homes.

"I would much prefer to be able to persuade by the power of argument than to force people or to make people lose their jobs because they didn't take up the vaccine," he told BBC Radio 4 Today.

media captionMatt Hancock: "The plan is working but we're a long way off getting this sorted"

The next wave of vaccinations will include the over-50s and people with underlying health conditions, due to be vaccinated by May, with details to be set out next week.

Some regions have already begun inviting the over-60s, who are part of the next phase, to be vaccinated.

On Friday, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of Covid cases was going down in all nations of the UK - although infection levels remained high.

On Friday, 15,144 new cases were recorded in the UK, as well as 758 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

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