All adults in England are expected to be able to book a COVID jab by the end of this week – as the head of the NHS said a new treatment for infected people is set to be available soon.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS in England, said the health service hoped to “finish the job” of vaccinating people over the next month.
He told the NHS Confederation conference: “It is now very important that we use the next four weeks to finish the job to the greatest extent possible for the COVID vaccination programme…
“By July 19 we aim to have offered perhaps two-thirds of adults across the country double jabs.”
He also said that from today 23 and 24-year-olds would be able to book an appointment.
“I expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to open up the National Booking Service to all adults age 18 and above,” added Sir Simon.
Over-18s in Wales and Northern Ireland can already get a jab, and people over 30 are eligible in Scotland.
Giving the jab to younger adults is important in controlling the recent increase in cases as most new infections are among this group.
Sir Simon also told the NHS conference that new treatments for people with COVID were expected in the coming months.
“We expect that we will begin to see further therapies that will actually treat coronavirus and prevent severe illness and death,” he said.
“Today I’m asking the health service to gear up for what are likely to be a new category of such treatments – so-called neutralising monoclonal antibodies – which are potentially going to become available to us within the next several months.”
The NHS England boss said community services would be needed to deliver the infusion to people before they are hospitalised, and typically within three days of infection.
The treatment aims to ‘neutralise’ the virus in infected patients and prevent serious disease.
Meanwhile, the government vaccine drive continues at pace towards the target of giving all adults a jab by the end of July. It’s hoped millions more can be administered before the new date for easing remaining COVID restrictions.
The government’s former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said on Tuesday that delaying the final step out of lockdown was wise and there could have been a big surge in cases if it had gone ahead.
He told Sky News that “another month will enable many more people to be jabbed and for the effects of those first and second jabs to actually kick in”.
So far, nearly 41.7 million people in the UK have had a first dose, while nearly 30 million have had both.
And while hospitalisations have risen slightly in recent weeks, Sir Simon said only 1% of beds in England were occupied by COVID patients.
He said the age distribution of patients had “flipped” due to older people mostly having had both jabs.
“Back in January, it was 60/40 – 60% of beds occupied by people over 65, 40% (occupied by people) under 65,” he said.
“Now it’s flipped to 30/70, so it’s about 30% occupied by people aged 65 and over 70% by younger people whose prospects are much greater.”