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COVID-19: More than one million people book booster jab appointment in less than a week

More than one million people have booked an appointment for a booster jab this week after the public were urged to have the shot following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The NHS has said 1,077,514 booster jab appointments have been made so far this week and a total of 3.6m people are already booked in to have their third dose this month.

More than 16.2 million third jabs have been delivered in England since the NHS began rolling out the booster programme in September.

The booster jab was initially only offered to over-50s, people in care homes, frontline health and social care workers and vulnerable people between 16 and 49.

However, on Monday afternoon it was announced all adults would be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine as the government backed a far-reaching expansion of the jabs programme to deal with the potential impact of the Omicron variant.

The NHS is aiming to offer the booster jab to everyone who is eligible by the end of January, with the third dose now being offered to people aged 40 and over.

So far 1.3 million people aged between 40 and 49 have had their booster jab.

NHS bosses said on Friday that the programme will be sped up from 13 December at the latest.

From that date, or earlier, the online booking system for coronavirus vaccines will be updated in order to allow people to book their booster jab three months after their second dose.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted experts’ advice to slash the waiting time for a booster dose from six months to three months, following the discovery of the Omicron variant.

In a letter to local health leaders, the chiefs of NHS England set out plans for the ramping up of the roll-out in the coming weeks.

They said, in line with advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), that “the NHS will offer vaccination in descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group first”.

The letter added that “the National Booking Service (NBS) is now being updated to reflect the three-month (91 days) interval from second dose to booster”.

“Our intention is to go live as soon as possible and no later than 13 December,” it continued.

NHS bosses also confirmed that GP surgeries will be able to postpone some routine health checks in order to focus on delivering booster jabs.

“From 1 December 2021 to 31 March 2022, where contractors consider it clinically appropriate, routine health checks for those over 75 and for new patients may be deferred,” the letter said.

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Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS deputy vaccination lead, said: “While we are just three weeks away from the Christmas break and very much looking forward to spending time with loved ones, the emergence of the new variant is obviously a concern for us all and we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people booking to receive their life saving protection every day.

“NHS staff are continuing to pull out all the stops to boost the most vulnerable as quickly as we possibly can.”

She continued: “My message to those who are currently eligible for the booster – anyone over 40 as well as well as those with health conditions, and health and care workers – is please do come forward for your vaccination.”

Another 75 cases of the Omicron variant were found in England on Friday, bringing the total to 104.

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