Booster jab buses are en route as Covid vaccine rollout speeds up

Booster jab buses are en route as Covid vaccine rollout speeds up for Christmas in battle to curb Omicron variant

  • NHS will open vaccine booking system five days early in booster rollout
  • Those aged 40 and over who had second dose three months ago can today book booster from as early as tomorrow
  • Vaccine advisers last week recommended to ministers that all adults be offered booster jab by end of January 
  • The NHS will also send Covid ‘booster buses’ to retail parks to offer jabs to Christmas shoppers

The NHS will open its new vaccine booking system five days early and target Christmas shoppers with ‘booster buses’ after Boris Johnson said the rollout ‘could go faster’.

Those aged 40 and over who had their second dose three months ago will today be able to book their booster for as early as tomorrow.

Ministers have vowed to offer a booster vaccine to all adults by the end of January in a bid to protect Britain from the Omicron variant.

Their vaccine advisers last week recommended the move and suggested reducing the gap between doses from six months to three. Health officials had said they hoped to implement the policy ‘no later’ than this coming Monday.

But the national booking system has been updated to allow eligible people aged over 40 or in a high-risk group in England to book from today.

People will be able to book a month in advance, two months after their second dose.

 Boris Johnson last week said vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’

Younger people will be invited to book their booster in the coming weeks, as officials increase eligibility in five-year age bands.

Mr Johnson last week said vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’ and Health Secretary Sajid Javid pledged to put the booster programme ‘on steroids’. But fewer booster jabs were given in England this weekend than before they made their promise.

The 221,674 given on Sunday was down from 223,189 the week before. And the 412,755 given on Saturday compared with 419,657 the previous week. Mr Johnson said yesterday: ‘The booster programme is the fastest in Europe, I think we have done more boosters than any comparable country. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t go faster. I would certainly say to people that now is the time to get it.’

The NHS will send Covid ‘booster buses’ to retail parks to offer jabs to Christmas shoppers under plans to accelerate the programme. Health chiefs hope the mobile vaccine clinics will help them hit their target of vaccinating 3.5million a week.

Health chiefs hope the mobile vaccine clinics will help them hit their target of vaccinating 3.5million a week

The Health Service will make it as easy as possible to get the jab from the likes of pharmacies, churches or shopping centres.

A health source said: ‘We appreciate people are busy in the run-up to Christmas but it is vitally important they get their booster vaccine as soon as they are eligible for it. We will be offering vaccines in thousands of locations and want to make it as easy to get a jab as it is to buy a turkey or Christmas present.’

The NHS is launching a recruitment drive, asking for paid staff and volunteers join the vaccination programme.

Some 10,000 new roles are being advertised, including vaccinators, admin staff and healthcare support workers.

The NHS is also working with the Royal Voluntary Service and St John, to drum up the support of more than 42,000 volunteers.

The NHS is also working with the Royal Voluntary Service and St John, to drum up the support of more than 42,000 volunteers

Today marks a year since Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab as part of a mass vaccination programme. That milestone will be marked by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as they issue a powerful plea to get the nation boosted.

Charles and Camilla will confirm they have been given their third jabs and beg others to do the same, urging the unvaccinated to ‘look at the evidence in our intensive care wards and listen to those who work there’.

In a statement the couple will highlight the incredible success of the Covid vaccination programme, from the scientists who developed it, to the NHS who delivered it and the tens of thousands of ordinary volunteers who have turned out to staff centres on the ground.

They will say: ‘It is the most enormous tribute to the remarkable ingenuity and determination of everyone involved that, one year after the first Covid-19 vaccination, more than 100million doses have now been delivered.

Today marks a year since Margaret Keenan (pictured) became the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab as part of a mass vaccination programme

‘We can only offer our most heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all the scientists, volunteers and workers across the NHS who have helped bring about this extraordinary achievement.’

Charles and Camilla also have a special message to the estimated six million unvaccinated people in the UK, and will be urging those who have not yet had their booster to join the 20million who have.

‘And to all those who have not yet had the vaccine – or are hesitating before getting a booster – we can only urge you to look at the evidence in our intensive care wards and listen to those who work there,’ they will say.

‘People who are unvaccinated are at least ten times more likely to be hospitalised or die than those who have had two vaccine doses. That is why we urge everyone to get vaccinated and to take up the booster, as we have done ourselves.’


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