The UK Government has ramped up the Covid-19 booster programme to offer all over-18s a jab before the end of 2021.Advertisement
The scaling up of the vaccine programme is to protect the nation against the Omicron variant and is the largest and fastest in health service history.
Bookings for those aged 30 and above were available from yesterday (Tuesday 13 December), and the national booking service will open to all over-18s from tomorrow (Wednesday 15 December).
Read more: Walk-in Covid-19 boosters available for over-18s in Preston and South Ribble
Dr Emily Lawson, director of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “The NHS is turbocharging the booster vaccination programme so that as many adults in England as possible can top up their immunity against the virus quickly.
“We know that speed is of the essence, so we will take every opportunity to improve access to the jab, from pop up sites in the community, GP teams doing even more vaccines each day, and new sites opening up across the country.”
Lawson said the best way to receive a vaccine is by booking online or calling 119, checking availability each day for appointments as more appear on the system.
Read more: Lancashire Directors of Public Health urge people to take Omicron threat ‘seriously’
The NHS will prioritise bookings for boosters and is urging people to book a slot to guarantee a jab.
Some vaccination sites started offering a walk-in service for 18s and over yesterday (Tuesday 14 December) if they had spare capacity.
As the most complex and challenging phase of the rollout expands even further and faster, the NHS has asked every local area to dramatically increase the number of appointments they have in place for vaccinations.
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Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “NHS staff were already working incredibly hard to deliver Covid-19 vaccines as swiftly as possible, but the threat posed by Omicron is grave.
“Scientists are very concerned about Omicron due to the speed with which it spreads and because two doses do not appear to provide much protection, but thankfully, a booster dramatically improves this.
“That is why the government have asked us to prioritise boosters over other routine care.
“I know NHS staff will do everything in our power to rise to this extraordinary challenge and ensure the vaccination programme provides as much protection as possible as we prepare for a new wave of infections that could be even greater than those that have gone before.”
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Pritchard said the online booking system is already open to millions of people and will shortly open to all adults and warned the public not to hesitate.
Over the next week, opening hours for vaccine centres will be extended, and every area of the country should have centres available that are open seven days a week.
More pop-up sites will be appearing online, with local areas looking at the most convenient for their communities – from trucks and buses in parks and shopping centres to sports stadiums and leisure centres.
Read more: Prestonians urged to get their Covid vaccines to help in the fight against Omicron
There are already almost 3,000 sites across the UK – more than at any point during the NHS vaccination rollout, with more new sites going live throughout the week.
GP teams will clinically prioritise their services to free up maximal capacity to support the vaccination programme alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care.
For some people, routine appointments may be postponed as part of the national mission to roll out boosters.
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Jane Scattergood, senior responsible officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “Sites across Lancashire and South Cumbria are preparing to meet the huge demand for jabs over the coming days and weeks to receive strengthened protection against the Omicron variant.
“As soon as you are able, it is vital you come forward for a booster jab to protect yourself and those around you from Covid-19 this Christmas. If you have not yet had a jab or need a second dose, we urge you to receive some protection against the disease.
“Our healthcare staff are working around the clock with support from our fantastic volunteers. If you can, please consider giving some time to volunteer at your local site.”
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The NHS will redeploy staff to focus on protecting the country as quickly as possible, and military aid will be in place in every region across the country to support NHS staff with planning.
Saturday was a record day for booster vaccines, with 483,000 top-ups reported in one day, and since the booster rollout started in September, the NHS has delivered more than 19 million doses in England.
NHS chiefs are urging people not to delay their booster and book their jab in the run-up to the Christmas break.
Read more: Urgent calls for Preston vaccination centre volunteers as thousands more become eligible for booster jab
The NHS has advised that the best way to get your booster quickly is by booking online or calling 119, but if walk-in centres can do so, they can vaccinate adults aged 18 and over immediately.
Following the launch of a recruitment drive last week, the NHS has encouraged people to come forward and help the NHS save lives either as a volunteer or in a paid role in the programme.
If you want to volunteer to support the programme, register now at: www.healthierlsc.co.uk/volunteer
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Have you had your booster yet? Let us know in the comments below