Coronavirus booster vaccine jabs for millions of people in England will begin to be offered this week, the NHS announced.
The vaccine will be available to care home residents, people who are 75 and over, and the immunosuppressed aged 12 and over.
About 5 million people are expected to be given the jab, with 600,000 invited to book their dose this week.
The booster announcement came as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a resurgence of Covid cases is under way across the UK, with infections in the over-70s at a record high and school leaders fearing that preparations for A-levels and GCSEs are being disrupted by outbreaks among staff and students.
Based on random swab testing, the ONS estimates almost 5% of the population in England, or 1,544,600 people, had Covid in the week ending 12 March, and 3.5% of people in the oldest age group. Infections also reached a record high in Scotland, where one in 14 tested positive.
Sarah Crofts, at the ONS Infection Survey, said: “These latest figures show further increases in infections across most of the UK with high levels of infection everywhere. It’s notable also that infections have risen in all age groups, with the over-70s reaching their highest estimate since our survey began.”
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said: “Following the massive success of the rollout so far, we are now offering over-75s and the most vulnerable a spring booster dose to top up their protection against this virus.”
The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme will contact people when it is their turn to be vaccinated again and, once they have an invitation, they will be able to book their appointment through the National Booking System either online or by calling NHS 119.
Local NHS teams will also be administering the jab in care homes.
Last week, the seven-day average for UK hospital admissions related to Covid rose above 1,700, with more than half being admitted directly because of Covid, the NHS Confederation said. NHS staff absences have begun to rise again, while emergency departments are also under pressure.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme has not stopped in its efforts to protect people from coronavirus – around 5 million of the most vulnerable people will be eligible for a spring dose and from tomorrow, we will start giving eligible groups their additional top-up in protection.
“We have protected millions of people at speed thanks to the efforts of our staff, aided by volunteers. They will once again rise to the next challenge.”