Millions of people in England will be able to book their Covid booster vaccine on Wednesday as the NHS cuts the qualifying time from six months after a second dose to three.
Every adult aged 40 and over and all those in high-risk groups will be able to arrange their Covid booster jab to take place three months after their second dose as the vaccine programme widens significantly today.
The online booking system for vaccines will be updated in the morning and details will be updated throughout the day, officials revealed on Tuesday night.
About seven million people in England alone will be able to book appointments up to a month in advance – two months on from their second dose – as part of the booster push which comes amid mounting concern over the Omicron variant. Official figures showed 101 more confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, taking the total to 437.
Overall, a total of 336,893 new Covid-19 cases have been reported in the past seven days, including 45,691 on Tuesday, official government figures show – the highest since the week to 16 January.
Addressing the growing threat posed by Omicron, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard suggested that even if current vaccines work less well against the new variant, they will probably still reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
“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.”
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, added: “We are boosting our booster programme to get more jabs in arms more quickly, and from today millions of people over the age of 40 in England will be able to pre-book their booster jab two months after their second dose, a month ahead of them becoming eligible for their top-up vaccine.
“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 and strengthening our collective defences in light of the Omicron variant, as this virus goes on the advance this winter.”
Hundreds of hospitals are already jabbing their staff and have now been asked to vaccinate other local NHS workers, eligible patients and social care staff as the programme expands. About 30 hospitals are already offering jabs to the public through the national booking service with more set to open.
The NHS is asking people to keep checking for appointments once the system updates, as more become available every day.
No date has yet been set for when adults aged under 40 will be able to book their booster. Ministers have promised to offer every eligible adult in the UK an opportunity to book in for their booster jab by the end of January.