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The NHS Covid vaccination programme is off to a ‘flying start’ with 2.1 million autumn boosters delivered in just over a fortnight, and 1.35 million last week alone.
NHS chiefs are urging people to get vaccinated without delay ahead of a potential ‘twindemic’ of Covid-19 and flu this winter.
Chelsea Pensioners are among those who have had their protection topped-up ahead of winter when Covid, flu and other viruses circulate.
NHS teams have delivered boosters at 3,800 care homes as well as vaccination centres, pharmacies and GP practices.
So far, 2.1 million people have been boosted with a further 1.7 million booked in to receive their jab over the coming month.
The NHS Covid vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in health service history, is offering appointments at a record 3,100 sites this autumn including more than 1,680 community pharmacies – with over 200 walk-in sites operating as well.
Sites include a DIY store in Shepton Mallett to a converted bus station in Towton, services have ensured getting the latest jab as convenient as possible, with nearby sites listed on the online walk-in finder.
The autumn booster campaign is among a package of NHS measures to prepare for winter as the health service continues to face record demand on its urgent and emergency care services, including by ramping up bed capacity, increasing the number of 999 and NHS 111 staff, and working with colleagues in social care to ensure patients can be discharged in a timely manner.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell, said: “The NHS Covid-19 booster programme is off to a flying start with over two million people topping up their protection ahead of winter.
“But with experts warning that Covid and flu could combine in a ‘twindemic’ there is no room for complacency.
“We are still seeing hundreds of patients with Covid being admitted to hospital every day and getting an autumn booster could save your life.
“So, I urge anyone eligible who is yet to get their vaccine, to come forward and book a jab online through the NHS website or by calling 119 as soon as possible if you haven’t yet sorted an appointment”.
Public Health and Mental Health Minister Dr Caroline Johnson said: “This is a very encouraging start to the autumn booster programme, with thanks to the NHS staff for their continued hard work and those who have come forward to get their vaccines.
“We know Covid and flu will be circulating at the same time this winter, so it is vital all those eligible continue to come forward for both jabs as we ensure to protect our most vulnerable.
“Keeping this progress up is essential – please do not hesitate to come forward when invited”.
Health and social care workers, people with a weakened immune system, pregnant women and others at greater risk from the virus can already get their jab along with all over 65s.
The latest booster jab comes as the national NHS vaccination lead warned that there is no time for complacency in the fight against coronavirus.
Since the NHS made history delivering the first COVID-19 jab outside of clinical trials to Margaret Keenan in December 2020, more than 127 million vaccines, including over 40 million top-up vaccinations, have been administered.
Earlier this year, over four in five eligible people received a spring booster and the NHS urged those people to get that dose before the end of July to ensure enough time had passed to optimise the protection an autumn booster would provide over winter.
In line with JCVI guidance, the autumn booster will be offered to around 26 million people across England over the coming weeks – including those aged 50 and over, as well as other clinically at risk groups – with over 65s, the immunosuppressed and frontline health and care workers already encouraged to come forward to get their vaccination.
It is particularly important for people with a weakened immune system to top up their protection and they do not need to wait to be invited by their GP – they can book an appointment on NBS or attend a walk in site.
80 hospital hubs have also joined the latest booster drive – delivering the jab to members of the public as well as their own staff and administering the flu vaccine where possible.
As with previous campaigns, people who are most vulnerable will be called forward first, with people able to book in online or through 119 as long as it has been three months since their last dose.
This month, the NHS is also rolling out this year’s flu vaccine, with eligible people able to get their flu and COVID jab at the same time depending on local system arrangements.