Text messages to tell you it’s time for your jab

Laura Donnelly
·2-min read
Science Technician Penny Townsend waits for lateral flow test results at Archway School in Stroud in Gloucestershire. - PA
Science Technician Penny Townsend waits for lateral flow test results at Archway School in Stroud in Gloucestershire. - PA

The NHS is to send text messages to 400,000 people, asking them to book a coronavirus jab, with reminders for those who do not come forward.

As part of efforts to boost uptake, text invitations will be sent to those aged 55 and over, with a link to reserve an appointment at a mass vaccination centre or pharmacist.

Health officials stressed that invitation letters would continue to be sent, and that those who preferred not to travel to the sites could wait to be invited by their GP.

But they said the move could allow the programme to move more quickly through the age groups, reacting to changing vaccine supplies and filling empty slots.

At first, texts will be sent to almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over and 40,000 unpaid carers, inviting them to book a slot at one of more than 300 mass centres or pharmacies across England. Reminders will then be sent every two to three weeks.

If the move proved successful, younger people could expect to receive texts ahead of official NHS letters landing on doormats, health officials said.

Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services are already using text messages to issue their invitations. But the new automated texts will mean that hundreds of thousands of people can be sent invitations at once.

Across the UK, more than 22 million people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, said: “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.”

The text messages will be sent using the Government's secure Notify service and will show as being sent from “NHSvaccine”.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “We know that some people are rightly worried about scams going around, but if the message comes from ‘NHSvaccine’ and links to the NHS.uk website, you can be sure that it's the right invite.

“For any messages you might get about the vaccine, always remember that the NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your PIN or banking password.”

Vaccinations are being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, including mosques, museums and rugby grounds.