NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has urged more people in their 20s to come forward and get vaccinated as he was knighted for his career in the health service.
Sir Simon also said NHS staff had responded with “extraordinary fortitude and great agility” to Covid-19 but warned the pandemic was not over.
The head of the NHS was knighted by the Prince of Wales just over a week since the Queen awarded the George Cross to the NHS on the institution’s 73rd anniversary.
Speaking after the investiture ceremony at St James’s Palace, Sir Simon said: “This is obviously a huge personal honour but above all it’s a reflection of the importance and the value of the National Health Service to this country.
“And that has been magnified and reinforced by the events of the last year and a half, which has required the NHS to respond to the worst pandemic in a century, and the biggest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War.
“I think the public and patients can see that NHS staff have responded with extraordinary fortitude and great agility, and, of course, the pandemic is not over.
“But the hope is that the vaccination programme will continue to provide this wall of immunity for the country.”
With infection rates rising concerns have been aired by some about the effect removing Covid regulations next week will have.
Sir Simon said: “I think, if Covid has taught us anything, it’s that you should never be certain about what will come next.
“But the fact that two thirds of adults in this country have now been doubly vaccinated and gotten that full protection is very important.
“But we still would like to see more people in their 20s come forward for their first jabs.
“And at the moment about three fifths of people aged 18 to 24 have had their first vaccination.
“But there’s more to go.”