People aged 30 and over in England are invited to book their COVID boosters from Monday, amid concerns Omicron cases will rise significantly over the next few months.
There are around 7.5 million people aged 30 to 39, and 3.5 million of those are eligible for boosters from Monday, NHS England said.
All eligible adults can book their booster jab two months (61 days) after their second dose using the NHS national booking system, in order to get their top-up three months (91 days) on from their second dose.
It comes as modelling suggested England could see high numbers of hospitalisations if tougher COVID curbs are not brought in.
How many Omicron cases have been reported?
Figures released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Saturday showed there have been an additional 633 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant reported across the UK, bringing the total to 1,898.
This includes a further 618 confirmed cases in England, 11 in Scotland, two in Wales and two in Northern Ireland.
Saturday’s overall UK figure of 1,898 confirmed cases was up 50% on Friday’s figure when the total was 1,265.
One scenario from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said almost twice the number of coronavirus patients could be admitted to hospital compared with last year due to the impact of the variant.
Under the best-case scenario, the variant could lead to a peak of more than 2,000 daily hospital admissions, with 175,000 hospitalisations and 24,700 deaths in England between 1 December 2021 and 30 April 2022, the projection suggests.
Under a more pessimistic scenario hospitalisations could hit 492,000 and deaths 75,000.
Booster call to help country beat Omicron
Booster vaccines have been put forward as a way to beat the variant and prevent it from overwhelming health services.
On Friday, analysis by UKHSA found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided “much lower” levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared with Delta.
But the data showed a booster dose gives around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has urged those in their thirties to come forward for a third jab to get protected over Christmas.
He said: “The COVID-19 booster programme is accelerating rapidly and more than 22 million people in the UK have already received their top-up, securing vital protection ahead of Christmas.
“This is our national mission – the most recent data shows boosters are the essential defence against Omicron and we are doing everything in our power to get jabs into arms as quickly as possible.
“We are now expanding the offer to over-30s, so please come forward as quickly as possible to get boosted and help our country get ahead in this race with the variant.”
Possibility of further measures
The prime minister announced on Wednesday he would be triggering his winter Plan B protocols in a bid to buy the UK time in the fight against the Omicron variant.
Work from home advice comes into force on Monday, while mandatory COVID passports for large venues from will be introduced on Wednesday.
The Plan B measures will be reviewed on 5 January, before their expiry date of 26 January.
However, experts said further measures – a rumoured “Plan C” – could be needed to keep hospital admissions down.
Measures such as restrictions on indoor hospitality, closure of some entertainment venues, and limits on gathering sizes from early next year would be sufficient to substantially control this wave, reducing hospitalisations by 53,000 and deaths by 7,600, the projection by LSHTM found.
Boris Johnson is facing what could prove to be the largest rebellion of his premiership, with more than 60 Conservative MPs said to be against the imposition of extra coronavirus measures under Plan B.
Some Tories reacted with dismay, with tens of backbenchers pledging to vote down plans for vaccine passports to be made mandatory for large venues.
The Sunday Telegraph also reported that a number of Cabinet ministers could attempt to block any potential “Plan C” measures.
Number 10 has maintained there are “no plans” to go further with measures in England, amid reports that proposals are being drawn up for a Plan C, featuring even tougher rules.