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More than one million appointments for vital COVID-19 booster jabs have been snapped up so far this week, the NHS said today.
Since Monday, 1,077,514 bookings have been made for the life-saving booster jab, as the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history enters its most complex phase.
On Monday, 342,983 boosters were booked through the National Booking Service, 321,793 on Tuesday, 224,274 on Wednesday and 188,464 yesterday, as the public were urged to act, if eligible, and book in for their vital top-up jab, with the emergence of the new COVID variant, Omicron.
A total of 3.6 million people are booked in to get their booster in December already, as the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme kicks off the festive booster blitz to protect people from the virus.
Since the NHS rolled out the booster programme in September, more than 16.2 million top-up jabs have been delivered in England – including more than 1.3 million to people aged 40-49.
On Monday, the JCVI updated its guidance to recommend all adults who have received two doses of the vaccine receive a booster three months on from their second dose and guidance has been sent to the NHS on how the updated JCVI will be implemented.
The NHS is inviting people most at risk from the virus first and is working through age groups in stages – currently people aged 40 and over are eligible, as well as those with health conditions, and health and care workers.
The NHS is to offer everyone eligible their booster jab by the end of January, and will contact each group when it is their turn to get vaccinated, with more newly eligible groups set to be called forward to book through the National Booking Service, in line with capacity, when the UKHSA has updated the Patient Group Direction allowing more people to get their booster.
Almost 3,000 vaccination sites across the country – pharmacies, GPs, sports stadiums and places of worship – are getting jabs into people’s arms as the NHS enters the most complex stage of the vaccination rollout to date.
Hundreds of hospitals are already jabbing their own staff, and they have now been asked to vaccinate other local NHS workers, eligible patients and social care staff as well.
Around 30 hospitals are already offering jabs to the public through the national booking service, and more will be coming online soon.
On top of this, in the past month the NHS has rolled the programme out to almost 300 more pharmacies, meaning there are 1,300 more offering vaccinations compared to February.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS deputy vaccination lead, said: “While we are just three weeks away from the Christmas break and very much looking forward to spending time with loved ones, the emergence of the new variant is obviously a concern for us all and we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people booking to receive their life saving protection every day.
“NHS staff are continuing to pull out all the stops to boost the most vulnerable as quickly as we possibly can.
“Last year, more than 17,000 people spent Christmas Day in hospital with COVID and whilst this year we can expect things to be much better because of the huge success of the vaccine programme, it remains vital that people get their boost of protection against the virus.
“My message to those who are currently eligible for the booster – anyone over 40 as well as well as those with health conditions, and health and care workers – is please do come forward for your vaccination.
“Whether it is for your first, second, third, booster or flu vaccination, I would urge everyone to come forward to give yourself and your loved ones vital protection and peace of mind”.
Since the guidance was updated by the JCVI earlier this week, the NHS has been working at speed to expand its life-saving vaccination programme.
More than 98 million jabs have been delivered since the NHS in England made history by delivering the first COVID-19 vaccination outside a clinical trial on December 8, 2020, to Maggie Keenan in Coventry.
Hard-working GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion’s share of the vaccinations so far, and we are looking at how we can help them deliver even more jabs. Local areas will also be using mobile vaccination units.
In line with updated guidance, the NHS will also be offering 12-15 year olds a second dose 12 weeks after their first, as well as offering immunosuppressed people a fourth booster dose from three months on from their third dose.
People can get their vaccine by booking online through the National Booking Service or by calling 119, and GP practices are also inviting those who are eligible.
There are more places delivering vaccines now than at any other point in the programme, including pharmacies, GP practices and other community sites, meaning the vast majority of people live within 10 miles of a fixed vaccination clinic.