The booking system for Covid vaccines has been extended to allow an additional seven million people to book in for an appointment.
People aged 40 and over are also now able to book their booster three months after receiving a second dose, instead of the original six months.
It comes after it was revealed on Tuesday (6 December) that England’s booster rollout has been slowing down.
This news followed reports that Omicron Covid-19 cases have been doubling every three days in the UK, with the Government revealing the variant was now spreading via community transmission.
At a glance: 5 key points
- From today (8 December), people can book their booster jab a month in advance
- It means an additional seven million people aged 40-plus will be able to book in for a booster
- People will also be invited to have another vaccine two months (61 days) on from their second dose
- While it covers those aged 40 and older, high risk groups will also be able to book in
- This booking system only applies to people who live in England
The news has come exactly a year since the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine was administered in the UK.
Since Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother, received her first dose in Coventry on 8 December 2020, almost 120 million jabs have been given.
What they said
“NHS staff continue to work flat out to protect their communities and are now once again working to expand the programme at scale,” said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
“There is a lot we do not know about the Omicron variant but experts believe that even if existing vaccines are less effective, they will give protection. So I would urge anyone eligible to come forward as soon as possible and to keep checking for appointments in their area.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the move would strengthen “our collective defences” amid the continuing spread of the Omicron strain of Covid-19.
“We are boosting our booster programme to get more jabs in arms quickly,” he said.
“We are halving the gap that people have to wait to get their booster to three months – prioritising those most at risk of serious illness as the virus goes on the advance this winter.”
Other Covid developments
The coronavirus vaccine programme has been boosted by comments from a WHO official, who said existing vaccines should still prevent severe illness in Omicron cases.
WHO's Health Emergencies Programme executive director Dr Mike Ryan told the AFP news agency there was no sign the new variant would be better at evading vaccines than other strains.
However, his comments came after lab tests in South Africa found Omicron could partially evade the Pfizer vaccine.
Researchers said there was a "very large drop" in how well the jab’s antibodies neutralised the Covid-19 variant.
The Government has consistently refused to bring in tougher Covid restrictions this winter because it says its coronavirus vaccination programme has been a success.
In a bid to accelerate the rollout of boosters, the Government has announced it will draft in 450 military personnel.
It has also promised extra community pharmacy sites, hospital hubs and pop-up sites.
Meanwhile, the NHS has announced it will launch a campaign aiming to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers to deliver jabs in the coming weeks and months.
These measures all come as 336,893 new Covid-19 cases were reported over the past seven days - the highest number of infections since the week to 16 January 2021.
This figure included 45,691 new cases on Tuesday.
Official statistics also showed 101 additional cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, with the total now reaching 437.