Vera Chappell of West Pinchbeck became the first to receive the Pfeizer vaccine at Peterborough City Hospital.

Those aged 38 and over as well as people with a mental illness urged to book COVID-19 vaccination

Those aged 38 and over and people with mental health issues are now being encouraged to book a COVID-19 vaccine.

Those with illnesses such as such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were added to vaccine priority group six earlier this year, alongside people with learning disabilities.

Adults with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment are eligible now, whatever their age, because they are at greater risk from the virus.

People who care for them – whether professionally or in an unpaid/family carer role – are also eligible and are being urged to come forward soon.

For people who have any concerns about the vaccine, health professionals at their local GP practice or any other vaccination service are happy to answer any questions they have when they attend their appointment, and in the meantime the NHS website has lots of useful information.

Giles Tinsley, head of mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “I would urge everyone with a serious mental illness and those who care for someone who does to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Most health and care workers have already had at least their first dose and are benefiting from the protection that it brings – we want unpaid carers to have that protection too so they can continue to be there for the people they love.

“If anyone is unsure whether their mental health illness makes them eligible, I would encourage them to contact their General Practice, or mental health team to discuss their condition and vaccination.”

Those aged 38 and 39 are the first to qualify for a jab with around a million people being sent text messages that allow them to access the national booking service at the touch of a button with further invitations to follow in the coming days and weeks.

The move to the next age group comes alongside nearly three quarters of people aged between 40 and 49 having had their first dose, less than a fortnight after they were offered a jab.

Since the vaccination rollout began in December, nearly 30 million people have been vaccinated with a first dose in England, two thirds of the total adult population.

More than one third of adults have had both doses, meaning they have maximum protection from the virus, with second doses remaining a priority.

Pregnant women will also be able to book through the national booking service from tomorrow (Thursday) and will be directed to vaccination centres offering Pfizer and Moderna in their local area in line with JCVI Guidance. They can also speak to their GP practice or maternity service if they have any questions about the coronavirus vaccine or can talk to a healthcare professional at their appointment.

NHS national medical director professor Stephen Powis, said: “The success of the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination programme is not by accident but down to the careful planning and precision of NHS staff who have now delivered over 45 million first and second doses in the fastest and quickest vaccination drive in NHS history.

“With nearly three quarters of people in their 40s having already received their first jab, the NHS is opening up to people aged 38 and 39 from tomorrow. We must not forget that behind the huge numbers of people jabbed, there has been a huge amount of hard work from our staff, aided by incredible volunteers across the country. We are incredibly grateful for their efforts.

“When you get that text – book your appointment – and join the millions who have already been jabbed, protecting both yourself and your loved ones.”

There’s more information available here.

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