The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme is off to a flying start with more than one million (1.16m) autumn covid jabs delivered in a week since national bookings started, providing vital protection to the most vulnerable.
Over 2.8 million people (2,808,234) have also received their flu jabs since the start of the autumn campaign on 11 September, with lots of people receiving their covid vaccine at the same time, making it more convenient for people.
Care home residents are among the first to have had their protection topped-up ahead of winter when Covid, flu and other viruses circulate.
NHS teams have delivered covid jabs to 4,616 care homes so far – over a quarter of all care homes – as well as at vaccination centres, pharmacies and GP practices.
The NHS sent invitations to around 1.5 million eligible adults last week, including those with an underlying health condition and people aged 65 and over, to book flu and COVID-19 vaccination appointments. More than 4.1 million people are due to be invited this week.
While over 1.2 million texts and emails were sent to parents of 2-3 year olds last week inviting them to get their flu jab, alongside a reminder to get an MMR vaccination if not up to date.
Over a million covid vaccination appointments have already been booked via the NHS website, NHS App, or calling 119 – with almost a quarter of bookings made via the App.
With the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant (BA.2.86) in England, the NHS brought forward its lifesaving vaccination programme following the latest scientific advice.
There were just over 1,000 patients in hospitals with covid on July 20, but by the end of August that figure had risen to over 2,500, and the latest figures for September 17 show more than 2,800 patients in hospital had covid.
The autumn vaccination campaign is among a package of NHS measures to prepare for winter with the health service already facing immense pressure from ongoing industrial action, demand on emergency services, alongside the risk of a new covid variant, and common winter viruses.
The NHS is encouraging everyone eligible to book an appointment for their covid and flu vaccines as soon as possible, to protect those most at risk this winter.
Chief Delivery Officer and National Director for Vaccinations and Screening for NHS England, Steve Russell said: “It is a huge feat that we are off to such a flying start with our covid and flu vaccination programme – more than one million people have received their covid jab since we opened up bookings last week, and hundreds of thousands more are booked in to receive theirs this week.
“The NHS is once again pulling out all the stops to deliver lifesaving vaccinations, with staff working hard across more vaccine sites than ever before to ensure as many eligible people as possible receive vital protection ahead of the winter months.
“Not only will these vaccinations protect you and your loved ones from getting sick this winter, but they will also help to protect the NHS – we want to see millions more getting their protection – so please come forward and book your vaccine today.”
The NHS’s winter flu and covid vaccination programme provides vital protection to those eligible and their families over winter, keeping people from developing serious illnesses, and helping to minimise hospitalisations during busy winter months.
In total over 30 million people in England are entitled to receive a free flu vaccine and over 20 million can get a covid jab via the NHS Winter Vaccination Programme.
Minister Maria Caulfield says: “It’s wonderful to see this year’s vaccination programme starting so strongly, with more than a million people having received their Covid jabs and ensuring they and their loved ones are protected ahead of the winter season.
“I’m grateful to the hard-working staff delivering these life-saving jabs, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to help keep up the momentum by booking your Covid and flu vaccine and giving yourself maximum protection.”
Gavin Dabrera, Deputy Director for COVID-19 Vaccines and Epidemiology at UKHSA, said: “We know that respiratory infectious diseases like COVID-19 are seen frequently during the winter season, with older age groups and those with underlying health conditions at greatest risk.
“These early uptake figures are encouraging but, as we head into the coming months, it remains important that everyone eligible for the vaccine comes forward. This will provide those vulnerable with the greatest possible protection against the virus.”
People eligible during this year’s vaccination campaign include all aged 65 and over, care home residents, frontline health and social care staff, those at increased risk because they are pregnant or have a certain underlying health condition, unpaid carers and household contacts of people with a weakened immune system.
Health chiefs are encouraging pregnant women to get their vaccines which they can get at any stage of their pregnancy during the campaign. If mums-to-be are concerned or have any questions regarding these vaccinations, they should speak to their GP, midwife or hospital team.
NHS staff have worked hard to ensure the efficient and effective rollout of the vaccination programme, with almost 5,000 sites – more sites than ever before – taking part in the campaign this year to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to get protection.
Even if people have previously had a vaccination or been ill with flu or COVID-19 before, immunity fades over time and these viruses change each year, so it is important people top up their protection.
Last year, the NHS carried out its second biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, with more than 21 million flu vaccinations given to adults and children, while more than 17 million covid jabs were delivered last winter.
Earlier this year, NHS England announced more than 86 million covid vaccination appointments have been arranged using the NHS’s national online booking system since its launch two years ago.
Covid vaccinations for those aged under 18 years and eligible for a seasonal vaccination will begin later in the year, and the NHS will let eligible families know when this offer opens.
GP practices and other local NHS services will also be contacting people to offer both flu and covid vaccines, and people can book the flu vaccine by searching online for a local pharmacy.