Covid booster jab bookings open for over-40s on Monday, as health chiefs say it is the 'best way to ensure a safe Christmas'
The Government says booster jabs and second doses will protect the progress already made in tackling covid, and ensure people can enjoy Christmas safely.
People are being encouraged to come forward for their jabs as soon as they are eligible to get the best possible protection ahead of winter.
Health chiefs say the first real-world study on the effectiveness of booster vaccines by the UK Health Security Agency shows top-up jabs boost protection back up to over 90% against symptomatic Covid-19 in adults aged over 50.
The findings shows that two weeks after receiving a booster dose, protection against symptomatic infection in adults aged 50 years and over was 93.1% in those with Oxford/AstraZeneca as their primary course and 94.0% for Pfizer-BioNTech.
Experts say this means people who have had their booster vaccine by December 11 will have very high protection against COVID-19 by Christmas Day.
Following a rise in cases and a return of lockdown restrictions in Europe, those eligible for a booster have been urged to take up the offer as soon as possible to protect themselves, their families and help to reduce the pressure on the NHS.
Following new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) this week, the vaccination programme has extended, with over 40s eligible for boosters and people aged 16 and 17 able to book a second jab.
Those eligible for a booster can book an appointment in advance - five months after their second dose - to be vaccinated as soon as they reach the six month mark, and the National Booking Service opens tomorrow to those over 40 and young people aged 16-17.
Almost 6 in 10 young people aged 16 to 17 have already had a first dose in England, protecting them from Covid-19, reducing transmission and helping to reduce the amount of missed education. Second doses will top-up this protection even further during the winter months.
People can book by calling 119 or get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country six months after their second dose without an appointment. Those eligible can use the NHS online walk-in finder to locate the most convenient site.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Getting your COVID-19 booster vaccine is the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this winter and will help reduce the pressure on the NHS.
“While the government is continuing to monitor a wide range of data to ensure the country remains protected, we have very sadly seen a surge in cases in parts of Europe.
“The most important thing we can do to stop a similar rise in this country is get the jab – so please get your vaccines as soon as you can so we can keep the virus at bay.”
A total of 14 million people in the UK have already received their booster vaccines.
More than 50 million first doses (88.2%) and 46 million second doses (80.2%) have been given across the UK.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “We must protect the gains we have made through our vaccination programme this winter, and I urge everybody to help make this happen
“Please get your boosters when eligible, and get your first and second doses if you haven’t already, to secure vital protection during the winter to keep you and your loved ones safe.”
Vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, so it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine to top up their defences and protect themselves this winter."
The latest evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65%, up to three months after the second dose, to 45% six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.
Although the vaccine effectiveness against severe disease remains high, a small change can generate a major shift in hospital admissions. For example, a change from 95% to 90% protection against hospitalisation would lead to doubling of admissions in those vaccinated.
The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity.
Chiefs said it is also never too late if you have not yet had a first or second dose – adding getting your Covid-19 vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter.
Covid-19 booster vaccines have been delivered or booked in at every older adult care home in England where safe to do so, with almost 9 in 10 care homes already visited.
In October, clinical guidance was updated to enable boosters to be given slightly earlier to those at highest risk, where this makes operational sense to do so. This includes care home residents who may have received their second doses at different times to be vaccinated in the same session, as long as it has been 5 months since their second dose. It may also help with other vulnerable groups, such as housebound patients, so that they can have their flu and Covid-19 vaccines at the same time.
Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS Covid-19Vaccination Programme, said: “The NHS vaccination programme continues to roll out at scale with more than 12 million boosters delivered in England - including around seven in 10 eligible people aged 50 and over - and 14 million UK wide in nine weeks.
“In the run up to the festive period and what we know will be a challenging winter, I would encourage everyone who is eligible and invited to take up the offer of a life-saving booster as soon as possible to protect yourself and those around you.”