Covid booster jabs are now being given at walk-in clinics in England as the NHS aims to increase vaccine uptake before what is expected to be a challenging winter.
From Monday, anyone who had their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine at least six months ago can turn up at one of hundreds of sites to get their top-up without making an appointment. The walk-in centres are also offering vaccinations to 12- to 15-year-olds.
The move follows criticism of the booster campaign, with only about half of the 12 million people in England eligible so far for a third vaccine dose having received one. The vaccine rollout to teenagers has lagged behind that of countries including France, Italy and Spain.
Nikki Kanani, a GP and the deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “NHS staff are making it as easy as possible for people to get their top-up vaccination, and from today people can now go online, find their nearest site and go and get their booster without delay.
“The booster is not just nice to have. It is really important protection ahead of what we know will be a challenging winter.”
People are advised to use the NHS online walk-in finder to check where their nearest centre is and whether it is offering boosters, and vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds. NHS England said almost everyone registered with a GP practice lives within 10 miles of a fixed vaccination site.
On Friday clinical guidelines were amended to allow care home residents and some vulnerable people to get their Covid booster vaccine a month early, in an effort to boost immunity during the winter.
The booster campaign is a central part of the government’s strategy for limiting hospital admissions because immunity from the initial two doses wanes over time, particularly in older adults and at-risk groups.
Protection against symptomatic illness 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, according to the latest evidence from the government’s scientific advisers. Protection against hospitalisation is estimated to fall from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and from 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.
On Sunday a further 38,009 people were reported as testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK in the previous 24 hours, with the seven-day total down 14% on the previous week, and 74 deaths were reported, with the seven-day total up 16%. A total of 45,697,856 second vaccine doses had been administered as of 30 October, whandile a combined total of 7,925,851 booster and third doses had been delivered, a day-on-day rise of 361,428.