Two years on since the NHS delivered the world’s first covid jab, kickstarting the most successful vaccine programme in our history, health leaders are now calling on the public to get boosted ahead of Christmas.
The NHS has delivered more than 143 million doses of the covid-19 vaccine since the largest and fastest vaccination programme in NHS history began exactly two years ago – on 8 December 2020 in Coventry.
It equates to an average of more than 196,000 doses a day, including 45.3 million first doses, 42.8 million second doses, and 55.1 million boosters, providing crucial protection, preventing countless hospitalisations and saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
But with cases of covid-19 on the rise again and people set to gather from across the country for the festive period, the NHS is urging anyone eligible for a booster to come forward this weekend – two weeks until Christmas – which is exactly the amount of time to takes to get back up to around 90 per cent protection against serious illness from covid.
Hundreds of sites around the country are making the vaccine as accessible as possible ahead of Christmas – with pop-ups at food banks, community health centres, places of worship as well as on roving buses and jab cabs.
Among those jabbing in the coming days is Oxford United’s football stadium, a German Market in Birmingham and a roving bus in London stationing itself at convenient places from supermarkets to mosques.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The unparalleled success of the life-saving NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, which began exactly two years ago when the NHS administered the first covid vaccine in the world outside a clinical trial, has been the single most important reason we have been able to get back to a pre-pandemic way of life.
“The determination and dedication of NHS staff and volunteers up and down the country to respond with extraordinary speed and precision to rollout the vaccine is something we can all look back on with great pride – delivering more than 143 million doses so far – and staff are continuing to give hundreds of thousands of covid and flu jabs every single day to protect us all from serious illness.
“The health service is currently facing huge pressure from all angles – and while covid may feel like a thing of the past – we continue to deal with thousands of covid hospitalisations as well as the resurgence of flu and other respiratory viruses. Just as it was two years ago, the best thing you can do to avoid serious illness and hospitalisation is to make sure you are up to date with your covid and flu jabs.”
Earlier this week the NHS called on those most at risk to get their latest covid jab as England’s leading doctor, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said hundreds of thousands of people most vulnerable to covid had yet to come forward.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: “We would not be where we are today without the extraordinary efforts of staff involved in the NHS vaccination programme who planned, prepared and deployed the fastest and largest vaccine drive in health service history.
“Two years on our staff are still working flat out across the country to deliver hundreds of thousands of covid and flu jabs every day to ensure we continue to protect those most at risk from serious illness, reduce hospitalisations and save lives.
“If you are yet to have your covid booster or flu jab, please book in as soon as possible and take up the opportunities on offer around the country this weekend to ensure you have maximum protection over Christmas.”
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “The power of the Covid vaccine is undeniable – since the UK was the first country to administer a jab outside of a clinical trial, countless lives have been saved across the world thanks to the incredible work of researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses and volunteers.
“More than 151 million jabs have been given in the UK in just two years – a phenomenal feat which has allowed us to live with Covid without restrictions.
“While more than 16 million people have already had their autumn booster jab, we can’t be complacent. That’s why it’s crucial that all those eligible, from those at risk and pregnant women to frontline health and social care workers, book their appointments as soon as possible to keep immunity levels high.
“We also need to ensure those eligible for their free flu vaccine are coming forward for necessary protection this winter. It is remarkable what the vaccines have achieved and they remain one of the best tools we have to protect the most vulnerable and keep serious illness low.”
May Parsons, Modern Matron for Respiratory Services at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust, administered the first covid jab in the world outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in Coventry on 8 December 2020.
May Parsons said: “Vaccinating Maggie with the first approved Covid-19 vaccine was a wonderful moment that I am so proud of – but that was only the beginning.
“That moment kickstarted the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in our history. It prevented hospital admissions, it got the country back to normal and it saved lives.
“All of the staff in hospitals and our communities went above and beyond during the pandemic to look after patients despite the risks the virus posed to themselves across health and care.
“We would not be where we are today without the efforts of the NHS and the way everyone went above and beyond to roll out the vaccine at speed and precision.”
People are eligible for a covid booster because they are over 50, are a health or social care worker, carer, or have a condition that means they are at risk or are immunosuppressed.
The NHS estimates around 6.4 million have a condition that means they are at risk while people are able also to self-declare on the National Booking Service.
So far 16.5 million people have had a covid booster, including more than seven in 10 of those who are severely immunosuppressed.