NHS steps up to booster challenge with week of records

The NHS in England delivered nearly four million booster vaccines this week, recording a week to week jump in boosters of more than two-thirds, as NHS staff and volunteers accelerated the booster campaign as part of the drive to protect the public from the new Omicron variant.

Since Monday, the day after the announcement of the new national mission to offer all adults a booster by the end of December, NHS staff have been working flat out to increase appointments across the country, delivering over three million more boosters since the Prime Minister addressed the nation on Sunday night.

A staggering almost three-quarters of a million booster jabs were given on each of consecutive days on Thursday and Friday across England, two record-breaking daily totals since the rollout began, in a week of sky-high bookings and boosters.

Between Saturday December 11 and Friday 17 December, 3,891,298 booster doses were reported in England, with 3,074,071 reported between Monday and Friday this week.

The seven day total this week far outstrips the week before, with over 1.5 million more boosters reported between 11 and 17 December than December 4th and 10th, when 2,321,100 were registered, a rise of 67%.

The NHS has now boosted nearly 23 million people in England.

To protect the nation from the threat of the Omicron strain, all adults aged 18 and over now able to snap up their booster slots on the national booking service.

There are now around 3,000 sites across the country, with 99% of the country living within 10 miles of a site.

The thousands of sites include double the number of hospitals offering jabs to the public, increasing from 30 to 71 in two weeks.

People can have a booster three months after their second jab, following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Vaccination sites have been asked to operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week wherever possible and in every community there should be slots available at least 16 hours a day – with some sites extending to 24- hour operation to make it easier for people who work shift patterns.

This comes following recent data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showing two doses of the vaccine are not enough to stop people becoming unwell from Omicron, but other data suggesting a booster significantly increases protection against the variant.

Three-quarters of eligible people over 40 have now had their booster, with that number rising to more than eight in 10 for people over 50.

Dr Emily Lawson, Senior Responsible Officer for the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Deployment Programme in England, said: “The NHS is on a race against time to offer all eligible adults the protection of a booster, as well as first and second doses.

“Day after record-breaking day, our amazing staff are hitting new heights to continue helping the public to protect themselves and those around them.

“The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in health service history, continues pulling out all the stops to deliver our country’s national mission to vaccinate as many as people as possible and at speed.

“Getting boosted is our best hope of protecting people against the new variant, so we need everyone to play their part and book in advance to guarantee their protection”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Booster jabs are strengthening our defences against the virus – and the number of daily milestones hit this week is proof of people’s enthusiasm to Get Boosted Now and protect themselves and their loved ones as cases rapidly rise.

“Thank you to our NHS workers, volunteers and Armed Forces who are working around the clock to boost a record number of people this week – we’re doing everything we can to stay ahead in this race between the virus and the vaccine so if you haven’t come forward yet, please roll up your sleeves and get the vaccine”.

On Friday, the NHS reported 740,775 boosters, breaking the record set the day before of 739,867 top-ups.

In just over a year since Maggie Keenan received the first approved COVID-19 vaccine in the world, the NHS has administered over 105 million jabs.

People who are yet to have one vaccination are also urged to come forward as it has never been more important that they book now. People aged 18 and over became eligible to book a booster this week, although it is important that people do not get vaccinated within 28 days of having had the COVID-19 virus.

Academics also found this week that the immunity generated after a booster jab rises much more quickly than that after a first immune response, offering better potential protection in the run-up to Christmas.

Thousands of volunteers and paid staff are also being recruited to support the delivery of the vaccine programme, and anyone interested in helping the NHS is being urged to search ‘COVID vaccine team’ to find out more.