March 9, 2021 8.09 am This story is over 15 months old

NHS begins text alerts for COVID vaccine

What you need to know to avoid scams

New NHS text alerts began on Tuesday to invite people to book a slot for their life-saving COVID jab, including across Greater Lincolnshire.

Almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over, as well as 40,000 unpaid carers, will be the first to get the text alerts nationally as part of the NHS’ biggest ever vaccination programme.

This comes after it was announced that people aged 56 to 59 in the East Midlands, including in Greater Lincolnshire, are being invited to book their vaccination.

The messages will include a web link for those eligible to click and reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 large-scale vaccination centres, including at Lincolnshire Showground, or at pharmacies across England.

The texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter. This means if the trial is successful it could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and be able to fill appointments quickly.

Reminders will then be sent two to three weeks after the original alert. People will also continue to receive letters as well as the text alert. Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services, which operate their own booking systems, are already using texts for invites.

If people cannot or would prefer not to travel to a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led site, they can choose to wait to be invited by a local GP-led service. NHS teams are also visiting those who are housebound and cannot travel to a vaccination service.

However, people are being warned against scammers trying to collect personal details from people. The real text message will be sent using the government’s secure Notify service and will show as being sent from ‘NHSvaccine’. The NHS will also never ask for payment or banking details.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, said: “Thanks to careful planning and the huge efforts of NHS staff we have vaccinated more than 18 million people in England, which is a remarkable achievement.

“The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, continues to go from strength to strength and we are now building on that momentum by trialling a quick and easy service that will hopefully make it more convenient for people to book their life saving jab.

“I had my vaccine this week – it was simple, quick and painless – and I would encourage others who have not yet taken up the offer to come forward and receive the jab.”

Over the weekend and on Monday, over 1.7 million people aged 56 and over were invited to book their vaccine nationally. Saturday was the busiest day for the booking service with more than half a million appointments confirmed.