Last call for Covid boosters for adults under-50, NHS warns

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Adults in England aged between 16–49 have barely over a week left to secure a booster jab against COVID-19, with the NHS encouraging people not to miss the opportunity. The booster — which can help protect against severe illness, even if one has caught Covid previously — is available to all aged 16 and over, as well as to at-risk children aged 12–15, who have had their first and second doses. The deadline for boosters is February 12. Appointments to receive the jab are available at GP surgeries and pharmacies across the country. NHS England have reported that 15,000 people are already booked in for a booster vaccination next week — with some 391,000 appointments still available.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Witty told BBC News that “we know that having the third vaccination, the booster, is a very important part of immunity to Covid and it provides additional protection.”

Booster availability, he added, “is coming to an end on February 15 — and I would encourage anybody who has not taken up the offer to do so before then.”

The decision to cease the initial booster programme in favour of a more targeted offering for those at risk of serious illness was made by the government following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) back on January 25, 2023.

It is expected that the Government will this year put on another autumn booster programme for senior adults and the clinically vulnerable, as well as a potential spring campaign in addition for the most vulnerable.

NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening, Steve Russell, said: “Over the last two years, the NHS Covid vaccination programme has administered almost 145 million doses.

“As a result, the public have widespread protection from COVID-19 and its variants — a remarkable achievement.

“Following the decision by the government to accept JCVI advice […] I would encourage anyone who has not yet had their Covid booster to book and appointment […] and make the most of the offer available.

“Once the NHS receives updated guidance for the next phase of the vaccination programme, our fantastic NHS staff will make sure the vaccine is accessible and convenient to those eligible as it has been in each of the previous campaigns.”

Health Minister Maria Caulfield added: “Our phenomenal Covid vaccination programme has saved lives, allowed us to live with Covid, and eased pressure on the health service.

“I want to encourage anyone who hasn’t had their booster jab to come forward before Sunday February 12.”

This applies, she noted, “whether it’s your first booster or if you’re eligible for an autumn booster.”

“It will top up your immunity and keep you and your loved ones protected.”

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According to Government figures, more than 151 million Covid jabs have been given in the UK so far — with 53.8 million having had a first dose, 50.8 million the second and just 40.4 million a third, “booster” dose.

The NHS is appealing for the some 10 million people who have only had two doses to come forward in the next week and get their third jab.

This injection will be of the so-called “bivalent” vaccine which protects against both the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus which causes COVID-19 — and the omicron variant.

In England, one can book a vaccination online, by visiting a walk-in clinic, or by calling 119. For those in Scotland, one can book their booster online, or by calling 0800-030-8013.

Patients in Northern Ireland can also book doses online or by calling 0300-200-7813. Adults over the age of 16 in Wales should have been invited for their booster. Those who have not should approach their corresponding health board.

The NHS have said that it will continue to operate a scaled-down vaccine service from mid-February onwards in order to ensure that those people who have not received their first or second vaccinations can still get protected.

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