The NHS’s most senior doctor is calling upon those yet to receive their booster COVID-19 vaccination to urgently come forward for their third jab.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis has said “there is no time to lose” for those still yet to top up their protection as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the UK.
It comes as COVID-19 cases in the country soared to a record high on Friday, with 122,186 new infections reported.
“The evidence is clear. One or two jabs can help but they do not provide the protection we all need against Omicron,” Prof Powis said.
“So if you are eligible for a COVID vaccination but haven’t had one there is no time to lose – you need to get boosted now.”
More than 32 million boosters and third jabs have been given as of 23 December, with vaccination centres open throughout the festive period – including Christmas Day in England – and more than a million appointments on offer before the new year.
But about 10% of pre-booked vaccine appointments are missed, while hundreds of thousands of slots have gone unfilled since the government announced the acceleration of the booster programme two weeks ago.
“Staff and volunteers on the NHS COVID vaccination programme are working throughout Christmas and the entire holiday period to make sure people can get the protection they need as conveniently as possible,” said Prof Powis.
“You can go online and pick from thousands of vaccine sites to book an appointment with no need for long queues.
“It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your friends so my message to the stragglers is clear: Don’t delay any longer – come forward and sort your jab now.”
Thousands of people have already been forced to rearrange their top-ups due to rules that do not allow vaccines to be given to those who have had the virus in the last 28 days.
Despite this, more than seven in 10 people aged 18 and over and who are eligible have now received a booster vaccination, according to NHS figures.
The Office for National Statistics said that 1.7 million people had coronavirus in the UK last week, which is the highest number recorded since autumn 2020.
How the COVID rules compare in each of the UK’s four nations
Its data covers people who tested positive for COVID-19 outside hospital or a care setting during week ending 19 December.
The number of people infected was highest in London, where most cases of the Omicron variant have been detected, at a rate of one in 20 people.