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The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme began its autumn booster campaign just two months ago and has already given maximum protection from covid to 13.4 million people ahead of a challenging winter.
With covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses in circulation and infection rates on the rise, health chiefs are urging people to get their jabs now to ensure maximum protection throughout the festive and New Year period.
In October, an average of almost two million covid jabs per week were delivered by NHS staff and volunteers at a record number of sites across the country.
This week reminders are also being sent to as many as one million eligible people who have not yet been jabbed – while around 800 thousand additional people will be invited to book in for an appointment this week.
More than 14 million have also already had their flu jab with sites being encouraged to co-administer both doses where possible.
NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening Steve Russell said: “It is a phenomenal achievement that thanks to the dedication and determination of NHS staff we have been able to provide additional protection from Covid-19 to more than 50% of those who are eligible in just two months – ahead of what we know will be a hugely challenging winter.
“Staff have worked flat out since the beginning of September to protect those most susceptible to serious illness from both covid and flu, successfully delivering over 27 million covid and flu jabs.
“As we head into the busy social season of Christmas and New Year, the vaccine will provide important protection and peace of mind for yourself and loved ones, so if you are eligible for the booster and yet to come forward, I strongly urge you to join the millions who have already had theirs”.
NHS medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “It is fantastic to see that more than 13 million people have already made the smart choice to get their updated Covid-19 vaccination and stay protected throughout this winter.
“We know that with winter comes both increased infection levels and also increased inter-generational mixing of families as people come together to celebrate the festive period with their loved ones – and so it is vital that those who are due their booster or flu jab, come forward as soon as possible to ensure they have that protection for themselves and their loved ones this winter”.
Minister for Primary Care and Public Health Neil O’Brien said: “We have made excellent progress with our autumn booster rollout so far, and I would like to thank NHS staff and volunteers for all their efforts to protect the public ahead of a potentially difficult winter.
“We expect both flu and Covid to continue to circulate over the next few months, and vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities by topping up our immunity. If you are eligible for both the Covid or flu jab, please do take up the offer”.
Those who are eligible to receive the Covid-19 bivalent vaccine include those aged 50 and over, frontline health and social care workers, and those deemed at risk because, for example, they have either a weakened immune system, a learning disability or are pregnant.
Those eligible are able to attend one of over 200 walk-in sites or book an appointment on the National Booking Service at nhs.uk/covidvaccine – with anyone who needs help making an appointment able to call 119 and those who are at risk already able to self-declare.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency shows that flu infection rates are also on the rise and health leaders are urging those eligible to join the more than 14 million who have received their flu vaccine so far, as they warn of a potential ‘twindemic’ of covid and flu infections this winter.
The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme is the fastest and largest in health service history and has delivered more than 138 million vaccines since England became the first country in the world to deliver it outside of a trial.
Earlier this year, more than four in five eligible people received a spring booster.
People may also be able book their flu vaccine online at around 300 participating sites as part of a National Booking Service trial.
The public can still book flu vaccinations as usual through their GP practice or by visiting one of the many thousands of participating community pharmacies.
For a full list of pharmacies offering a free NHS flu vaccination, including those not part of the NHS pilot, please visit the nhs.uk website.