More than six million at risk people or over 65s who are yet to get their autumn booster will be reminded to book a jab next week, ahead of winter.
The fastest and largest vaccination programme in NHS history has already delivered over 5.5 million life-saving autumn top-ups to combat covid since its launch just a month ago.
A total of 6.6 million people who are most vulnerable to serious illness from covid because they are either over 65, have suppressed immune systems, are pregnant, have a learning disability or another health issue, are being reminded to book in as soon as possible.
Those who are at risk are able to self-declare – they do not need to wait for an invite, and can attend a walk-in site or book in online at www.nhs.uk/book-covid-booster. People can book in at one of over three thousand sites or grab a jab at a walk in site, and anyone who needs help making an appointment should call 119.
The reminders, which will be a mixture of emails, letters and texts, will begin to land from Monday as NHS leaders urge those eligible to take up their free covid booster and annual flu vaccine ahead of the threat of a potential “twindemic” this winter and with infection levels already starting to rise.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that around one in 50 people in England had covid in the week ending 26th September – up by a quarter – with more than 9,500 patients in hospital with Covid-19.
The NHS is already preparing for winter including by ramping up bed capacity and increasing the number of 999 and NHS 111 call handlers.
NHS medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said:
“The threat of a Covid-19 and flu season creating a “twindemic” this winter is real, as infections levels continue to rise and the number of people in hospital with covid climbing by more than a third in just over a month across England.
“Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff and volunteers we have already delivered more than five million doses in four weeks with hundreds of thousands of people booking their vaccine every day, but we know that there are still millions of people who have yet to take up the offer.
“If for any reason you have not yet been able to get your autumn booster, I would strongly urge you to come forward as soon as possible and get protected – the vaccine remains the best protection against serious illness and hospitalisation from covid this winter.”
In total, around 26 million people across England will be eligible for the latest autumn booster.
Those already eligible can get their booster by booking online or by calling 119. There are also still 200 walk-in vaccination sites available to make getting a booster as easy as possible – people can find a walk-in site near them using their postcode online.
People currently eligible for an autumn booster include those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and frontline health and care workers.
Almost one in three people with suppressed immune systems have had an autumn booster with the remaining urged to come forward as soon as possible if it has been 91 days since their last dose.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell, said:
“While we have already delivered over five million autumn boosters – which is fantastic progress and testament to the hard work of NHS staff and volunteers – there are millions more eligible for the life-saving dose still to come forward. This weekend we are urging all those eligible to get their Covid-19 autumn booster to maximise their protection against the virus, as soon as possible.
“NHS staff continue to pull out all the stops to make sure that happens with thousands of vaccine sites open across the country, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting your booster dose as soon you are invited – it is best protection for you, your family and your community this winter.”
Public Health and Mental Health Minister Dr Caroline Johnson said: “It is fantastic that over five million eligible people have already received their Covid booster, thanks to the hardworking NHS staff and volunteers helping get jabs in arms and boosting immunity.
“With winter approaching and Covid cases continuing to rise, it is crucial that everyone who’s eligible gets both their booster and flu jabs as soon as they can so they and their loved ones are protected.”
The NHS vaccination programme is the most successful in health service history – more than 127 million vaccines have been given since the Covid -19 vaccine was first introduced. It shows no signs of slowing down, with appointments being offered at a record 3,100 sites this autumn.
The NHS is also currently rolling out this year’s flu vaccine, with eligible people able to get their flu and Covid jab at the same time depending on local arrangements.