The vital booster programme has reached another milestone as more than 11.4 million people in the UK have now received their top-up jabs to maintain protection ahead of the winter months.
The landmark figure comes as over 90.4 million vaccines – first, second and top up jabs – have now been delivered in England alone. This equates to more than eight million doses given a month on average since the largest vaccine programme in history began in December.
More than 11.4 million booster and third jabs have been administered in the UK, with over 532,000 reported in the last 24 hours.
Around 45.9 million people have received two doses (79.9%) and around 50.5 million people have received one dose (87.7%), with around 7 in 10 over 80s in England already vaccinated with top-up jabs.
Following an update to the National Booking Service earlier this week, booking a booster jab has never been easier. Those eligible for a top-up vaccine – people over 50 and those most at risk of COVID-19 – can pre-book their jab five months after their second dose, making it easier and more convenient to boost their protection into winter.
People will still receive their vaccine six months after their second dose, but the change will speed up the vaccination programme by allowing people to receive a jab the day they become eligible, rather than waiting for a convenient appointment.
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 nine in 10 care homes already visited.
People are also able to book by calling 119 and can get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country 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:
“More than 11 million people across the UK now have the vital protection boosters provide, as we approach the colder winter months.
“I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccination programme for their tireless efforts and to everyone who has come forward, bolstering our wall of defence jab by jab across the country.
“We know immunity begins to wane after six months so please do not delay – get your vaccine as soon as you can to help keep COVID-19 at bay this winter, and further protect yourself and your loved ones.”
Several major milestones have already been hit with the booster programme, with more than one million people in London, Midlands, North East and Yorkshire, North West and South East have received the top-up jabs:
East of England – 1,167,836
London – 1,154,916
Midlands – 1,774,770
North East and Yorkshire – 1,561,674
North West – 1,260,940
South East – 1,578,907
South West – 1,071,946
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said:
“The COVID-19 booster programme is in full swing and it is an incredible achievement to reach 11 million boosters across the country.
“We’re doing everything we can to roll out boosters as quickly as possible, giving vital protection to millions of people ahead of winter – if you’re eligible please come forward.”
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 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. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.
Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS Vaccination Programme, said:
“Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff and volunteers, the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme has delivered a phenomenal 90 million life-saving COVID-19 jabs across England in less than a year, saving around 127,000 lives.
“That’s more than eight million vaccine doses a month on average since the largest vaccination drive in NHS history began last December – and we are continuing to roll out in schools as well as deliver hundreds of thousands of first and second doses, boosters and third doses every day.
“Whether you’re considering coming forward for the first time, taking up the NHS’ evergreen offer of a vaccine, getting your second dose, or booking your booster – I’d urge everyone to come forward as soon as possible – the vaccine is safe and effective, and will provide crucial protection over winter.”
Last month, 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 five 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.
Vaccine confidence is high with data from the Office for National Statistics showing nearly all (94%) of those aged 50 to 69 say they would be likely to get their COVID-19 booster if offered, with the figure rising to 98% for those over 70.
Flu is another winter virus that can be serious. To give people the best protection over winter, those eligible for a free flu vaccine should come forward and book an appointment at either their GP practice or their local pharmacy, or take it up when offered by their employer or other healthcare provider.
The government has launched a nationwide advertising campaign, encouraging people eligible to get their booster and flu jabs to protect themselves and their loved ones and help reduce pressures on the NHS. This includes outdoor billboards, broadcast and community radio and TV.
The offer of a first and second COVID-19 vaccine remains open to anyone who is eligible. Vaccines are available free of charge and from thousands of vaccine centres, GP practices and pharmacies. Around 98% of people live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre in England and vaccinations are taking place at sites including mosques, community centres and football stadiums.
There are more than 500 extra vaccination sites now compared to April this year, with 1,697 vaccination centres in operation in April 2021, and over 2,200 vaccination centres in operation now.