NHS chiefs have warned people about fake COVID vaccine messages as they launched a new texting drive to increase the number of people taking jabs.
Texts will now be sent to almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over and 40,000 unpaid carers, with a web link so they can reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 vaccination centres or pharmacies across England.
NHS staff will send reminders every two to three weeks to encourage people to get their vaccine if they have not taken up the offer.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, warned people to check any messages were from “NHSvaccine” and linked to the NHS.uk website to ensure they weren’t a scam.
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How to spot a fake COVID vaccine text message
Scammers have been using fraudulent text messages to collect personal details and to get people to call premium rate lines and enter their bank information.
But the new NHS text messages will be sent using the government’s secure Notify service.
Dr Kanani 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.
She said for any messages you might get about the vaccine, always remember the NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your pin or banking password.
Dr Kanani added the NHS would never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine or ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or payslips.
If the text messaging drive proves successful, younger people can expect to receive texts ahead of official NHS letters landing on doormats.
Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services are already using text messages to invite people for a vaccine.
Anyone who prefers not to travel to a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led site can choose to wait to be invited by their GP.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our vaccination rollout is moving at a blistering speed and these text alerts will increase the pace by making it even easier for people to get booked in for their jab.”
Across the UK to date, more than 22 million people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
Vaccinations are being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, including mosques, museums and rugby grounds.
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