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The largest and fastest vaccination programme in NHS history has now invited everyone eligible for a spring booster and more than four in five people have already had their jab.
The NHS has invited more than five million people in total to get their spring booster in line with JCVI guidance as part of the world-leading NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme and is urging anyone yet to come forward for a spring dose to do so as soon as practically possible.
More than four million people and around 86 percent of those aged 75 and over have already had their spring dose. Those who are eligible include older adult care home residents, people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed.
As COVID-19 infection levels rise, England’s top doctor has warned that those who have yet to act on an invite to get their spring dose should do so as soon as they can in order to protect the most vulnerable.
The NHS has been bringing people’s invites forward and encouraging them to get the spring jab before June. Almost 250,000 reminders will be sent out to those eligible before the end of the month via text message, email or letter.
Getting the jab before the end of June will also mean there will have been enough time between doses ahead of a further autumn dose to extend protection over winter, and against any possible resurgence in infection levels.
The autumn programme will be determined once the JCVI finalise the guidance for the next phase of the NHS programme.
NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “The recent rise in COVID infection levels in England acts as a timely reminder that it is crucial those who are eligible come forward for their spring jab and get themselves protected.
“Well over four in five people aged 75 and over have come forward for a spring booster so far and I would urge anyone who hasn’t to get their spring jab as soon as possible.
“The spring dose will not only give you and your loved ones protection this summer amid rising infection levels, but also allow you to get a vaccine this autumn at the right time to maximise your protection over winter. This is particularly important for people who are immunosuppressed”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our world-leading vaccine programme is allowing us to live with the virus. Over four million people have already come forward for their important booster jab, but it is vital for everyone eligible to get boosted now to protect themselves and their loved ones”.
Despite the huge disruption caused by the COVID pandemic, the NHS continues to get on with the elective recovery, cutting the number of people waiting two years by more than two thirds, hitting record levels of people being checked for cancer with 2.6 million people being referred in the year ending March 2022, all while continuing to deliver the largest and fastest vaccine drive in NHS history.
Anyone eligible for a spring booster will still be able to come forward beyond the end of this month, where they will have a discussion with a healthcare professional around the timing of a possible autumn dose, likely to be three months from their last, in order to decide what is best for that individual. The NHS will also continue to offer the vaccine at local sites to those who are newly immunosuppressed.
Gemma Peters, Chief Executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “It’s good to see NHS vaccine team efforts to ensure people get the vaccine doses they are entitled to. Immunocompromised people are at higher risk from COVID, and the single simplest way of increasing their protection level is to make sure they’ve had the vaccine doses they are due.
“If you’re immunocompromised, have had fewer than five doses and haven’t had one in the last three months, you should be getting another one right now, unless your doctor has told you not to.
“We know that lots of immunocompromised people have not yet had all the right number of vaccine doses, and so don’t yet have the level of protection they should, and that this is particularly evident in the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black African and Black Caribbean communities.
“I urge every immunocompromised person who is due another dose to book it today. With the COVID rate high at the moment and immunocompromised people continuing to die of it, it could be a decision that literally saves your life.”
The NHS is beginning preparations for an autumn rollout but will wait for the green light from Government and the JCVI.
People aged 75 and over, older adult care home residents and those who are immunosuppressed have been able to get their spring booster since 21 March.
Spring booster jab appointments can be booked quickly and conveniently on the NHS website and people that can’t go online can book by phoning 119.
Since the NHS in England made history when Maggie Keenan received the world’s first approved vaccination in Coventry on 8 December 2020 more than 125 million lifesaving COVID jabs have been delivered preventing around 186,0000 hospitalisations and saving thousands of lives.
The 92-year old grandmother is one of the more than four in five eligible to have already received their spring booster, getting her full top-up on 22 April. She is one of the latest in a long line of those have had theirs so far, with 95-year old former engineer Devraj Jhalam among the first to get his jab on 21 March in Slough.
Tens of thousands of healthcare workers and volunteers have delivered jabs at thousands of sites including shopping centres, racecourses, theatres, theme parks, places of worship and even a curry house as well as hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and at community pharmacies.
Research from the UK Health Security Agency showed that the NHS booster programme helped prevent around 186,000 hospitalisations between December and March.
Meanwhile, a report from the National Audit Office has said the NHS vaccination programme met “stretching and unprecedented targets” as it helped save lives and reduce hospital admissions – all while making effective use of public money.