NHS COVID-19 vaccine programme delivers first spring boosters

A 95-year-old granddad has today become one of the first people in England to receive a  spring booster, as part of the latest phase of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Former engineer and grandfather of two, Devraj Jhalam, 95, received his spring jab from Salt Hill Park vaccination site in Slough earlier this afternoon.

As of 4pm, more than 75,000 people had already come forward to book their fourth dose, since the booking service opened this morning.

People aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed were able to book from 7am this morning, as the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in health service history expanded again.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised a spring jab should be offered to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 as a precautionary measure around six months on from the initial booster.

Speaking today after receiving his jab, Mr Jhalam said: “I was really happy to come here because you know I am 95, very, very vulnerable. Fortunately so far I didn’t get any infection but I hear stories (of others who have).

“Everybody must, in my age group, everybody must have it immediately. Do not delay – delay means danger. You never know what will happen tomorrow.

“It’s a wonderful thing really, what’s happened (with the vaccine rollout). There’s only one organisation like the NHS”.

The NHS will invite people to arrange a jab through the national booking service when it is their turn. It can be accessed online or by calling 119.

Around five million people will be able to get a Spring booster during the campaign and this week, the NHS will be contacting over 600,000 people to invite them to book their jab.

The NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme made history in December 2020 when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a COVID vaccine outside of a clinical trial in Coventry. Since then the NHS has delivered more than 118 million vaccine doses, including over 32 million booster doses.

England’s chief GP and deputy lead for the NHS COVID Vaccination Programme, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “The NHS has already sprung into action with spring boosters and it is fantastic that people like Devraj are already getting their extra boost with tens of thousands more booked in.

“The public have come forward time and again -protecting themselves and each other, and around five million people will be eligible to come forward throughout this spring campaign to get another booster.

“I’d encourage everyone being contacted by the NHS over the coming days and weeks to book in for a spring booster via the National Booking Service online or calling 119 once they receive a letter or text message inviting them to do so”.

Local GP and clinical director for one of Slough’s PCN, Dr Nithya Nanda, said: “What we are seeing at the moment is increasing admissions to the hospital and increasing number of the cases. And there is a variant of Omicron that has really made people think again of getting protected from Covid. And I do think and I’m hopeful that this is a timely intervention, especially for our at-risk patients.

“I would urge everybody to come forward to get vaccinated especially to protect themselves and their family from the increasing cases of COVID.”

The NHS booster programme has already helped prevent around 157,000 hospitalisations since mid-December according to recent estimates by the UKHSA.

Despite this NHS hospitals have treated more than 100,000 patient with COVID since the start of the Omicron wave.

A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) said the NHS Vaccination Programme met “stretching and unprecedented targets” as it helped save lives and reduce hospital admissions – all while making effective use of public money.

Over 4.5 million people aged 75 and over got their top-up jab over autumn and winter, and have recruited additional call handlers for the 119 service to help people book their vaccine appointment.

In addition, local NHS teams will also offer vaccinations in care homes with hundreds more visits planned in the coming weeks.

Calls to 119 are free from mobiles and landlines with lines open every day from 8am to 8pm and providing support in 200 languages.

Local NHS teams will be contacting care homes in their patch as they have done previously to arrange for teams to go in and deliver spring boosters for people who are eligible and have been invited.

Hundreds of sites including community pharmacies, vaccination centres and hospital hubs are offering spring boosters to those most vulnerable to coronavirus following the updated guidance from the JCVI who advised on an extra spring dose as a precautionary measure.

The NHS has made it easier than ever for immunosuppressed people to get their boosters – they can now show they are eligible by providing either a letter from a GP team or specialist inviting them for a vaccine, a hospital or GP letter about their medication or treatment, or a prescription or medication box with their name and date on it.

It is still important for severely immunosuppressed people who have been advised to have a 3rd primary dose, for example those undergoing cancer treatment, to get this before getting a booster, for maximum protection from COVID-19.