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NHS staff and volunteers will deliver life-saving booster jabs on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as the health service pulls out all the stops to provide maximum protection against Omicron.
Vaccinators and those supporting them will give up time with loved ones to ensure that the NHS COVID vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in health service history, does not stop for the festivities.
While thousands of appointments have already been snapped up, there are still around 200,000 slots available across Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
NHS COVID-19 vaccination chief Dr Emily Lawson urged anyone who is due a booster, first or second dose to take advantage of the festive slots, saying it was the best present people could give themselves, loved ones and friends.
Scores of vaccination sites across the country will be open over the festive period, including Redbridge Town Hall and Grim’s Dyke Golf Club, with local pharmacies also playing a crucial role in protecting communities this weekend.
Booking is best but if Father Christmas wants to stop off for a jab there are options available across the country from Eastbourne to Dewsbury and Croydon to Hartlepool.
Experts have warned that while first or second dose can help, only boosters provide the protection people really need against Omicron.
Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS COVID vaccination programme, said: “We’ve seen record after record broken in the run up to the festive season and I want to thank every NHS staff member and volunteer whose goodwill and determination to protect their communities will keep the booster rollout going this Christmas weekend.
“It has been the greatest privilege to see first-hand the amazing work done at vaccination sites and to speak to so many staff and volunteers – from people who’ve worked for the health service their whole life, to new recruits – all have gone over and above, day in and day out in recent weeks and months to make sure others are protected.
“With two thirds of eligible adults and two in five people in their thirties already jabbed and an extraordinary number of people have received their top up in protection – so this Christmas before sitting down to your dinner with your family, I would encourage anyone not already boosted to come forward, book an appointment and get the gift of a jab”.
The Christmas and Boxing Day push follows a week of back to back records, following a bumper weekend of 1.5 million boosters and 830,000 boosters on delivered last Saturday (18 Dec) alone – the highest number ever.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I would like to thank the tireless and selfless work of the NHS and volunteers for sacrifing time with their loved ones to deliver life saving jabs through Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year, and helping everyone to Get Boosted Now.
“Before settling down for lunch or after pulling the last Christmas cracker, make the booster part of your traditions this year and join the miilions who have already rolled up their sleeve.
“More than 30 million booster jabs have been administered across the UK but we need to go further. We are pulling out all the stops to offer all eligible adults a booster by the end of the year and its so important people play their part and come forward”.
Every eligible adult can now book in for their all-important jab online and given some sites remain busy, the NHS is encouraging people to book to guarantee their slot.
Throughout December, over 500,000 people have come forward for the vaccine for the first time, as alongside the booster programme the health service continues to deliver the evergreen offer of two initial doses, vaccines for under 18s and third doses for the immunosuppressed.
However, people cannot get vaccinated within 28 days of having had the virus.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “Vaccine centres will continue to operate throughout the festive period, meaning people can continue to come forward for their first, second and booster jabs.
“I would like to thank the NHS for their tireless work and the volunteers for sacrificing part of their holidays to reinforce our wall of protection against Omicron”.
More than two thirds of people aged 18 and over have now received their top up protection against Covid-19 as the NHS booster campaign continues to protect the nation against the virus.
Around two in five people who are eligible in their thirties have also now had their lifesaving booster, with the national booking service opening up to this group last week.
The NHS made history when Maggie Keenan received the first Pfizer jab outside of the clinical trial in December last year.
Since then the NHS vaccination programme has delivered 109 million doses, including 26 million boosters.