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The NHS’s top doctor is calling for people who put off getting a life-saving COVID jab as they prepared for Christmas to urgently book a booster to protect them from Omicron.
The NHS COVID vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in the health service’s history, is delivering jabs at thousands of sites throughout the festive period – with more than a million slots still available in the run up to the New Year.
Anyone who is due a booster, first or second jab can book a convenient appointment through the national booking service meaning they will not be stuck in a long queue.
Although millions received their booster in the last few weeks, the number of missed appointments is currently running nationally at around 10 per cent and hundreds of thousands of appointments have been unfilled since the Prime Minister called on all eligible adults to get a booster in response to the threat posed by Omicron.
The call came after experts warned that two jabs do not provide the protection people require from Omicron, which spreads incredibly easily.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis warned that with new infections at a worryingly high level people who are due a jab should not delay any longer.
Hundreds of thousands of people have already been forced to delay their jab because you must leave 28 days between testing positive and receiving a vaccination.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “The evidence is clear. One or two jabs can help but they do not provide the protection we all need against Omicron. So if you are eligible for a COVID vaccination but haven’t had one there is no time to lose – you need to get boosted now.
“Staff and volunteers on the NHS COVID vaccination programme are working throughout Christmas and the entire holiday period to make sure people can get the protection they need as conveniently as possible. You can go online and pick from thousands of vaccine sites to book an appointment with no need for long queues.
“It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your friends so my message to the stragglers is clear: Don’t delay any longer come forward and sort your jab now”.
More than seven in ten people aged 18 and over and who are eligible have now received their top up protection against COVID-19 as the NHS booster campaign continues to protect the nation against the virus.
In total, 27,127,951 (as of 24 Dec) people who are three months on from their second dose have already been boosted in England, with the online service opening to all eligible adults just under two weeks ago as part of the national mission to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible following the threat of the new Omicron variant.
The last fortnight has seen a string of record-breaking vaccinations, with more than 1.5 million boosters delivered last weekend alone.
Appointments continue to be available over the festive period with one third of all slots still up for grabs this week.
The NHS is urging everyone who is eligible – three months on from their second jab and able to book after two months – to get their booster as soon as possible. However people cannot get vaccinated within 28 days of having had the virus.
NHS staff have worked around the clock to get their communities protected, vaccinating at stadiums and racecourses as well as sending mobile buses to Christmas markets.
Vaccination sites are operating 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 operations.
Since making history by delivering the first COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial to Maggie Keenan in December last year, the NHS in England has administered over 110 million doses including more than 27 million boosters.
The NHS is also still encouraging people to volunteer to support the delivery of the vaccine programme, with NHS chief nurse Ruth May last week calling on medical and nursing students, doctors, nurses and other health professionals who may have retired to come forward and enlist in the programme.
Any former staff, students and volunteers that would like to join the vaccine team are being encouraged to visit www.england.nhs.uk/joinvaccineteam to find out how they can play their part.