Over eight million people have now received their COVID-19 booster jab ensuring the protection they’ve secured from their first two doses is maintained over the winter months.
The most recent figures show hundreds of thousands of vaccinations over the weekend, with more than 820,000 administered since Friday. People who are eligible are also able to get a booster at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country from today, as long as it’s been six months since their second dose.
A total of 8,115,229 people have received their booster jab in the UK. 45,712,351 people have received two doses (79.5%) and 48,790,855 people have received one dose (84.8%).
The colder weather traditionally leads to increased transmission of viruses and will be challenging for the NHS.
Vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, so it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine to top-up their defences and protect themselves this winter.
The latest evidence from SAGE shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65%, up to 3 months after the second dose, to 45% six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.
Although the vaccine efficacy against severe disease remains high, a small change can generate a major shift in hospital admissions. For example, a change from 95% to 90% against hospitalisation would lead to doubling of admissions in those vaccinated.
The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.
Last week, clinical guidance was updated to allow COVID-19 boosters to be given earlier to those at highest risk, where this makes operational sense to do so. This includes care home residents who may have received their second doses at different times to be vaccinated in the same session, as long as it has been five months since their second dose. It may also help with other vulnerable groups, such as housebound patients, so that they can have their flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.
Vaccine confidence is high with data from the Office for National Statistics showing nearly all (94%) of those aged 50 to 69 say they would be likely to get their COVID-19 booster if offered, with the figure rising to 98% for those over 70.
People will be invited for the COVID-19 booster jab when it’s their turn - if they have not been contacted within a week of reaching six months since their second jab they can call 119, book online or walk into various sites across the country.
Flu is another winter virus that can be serious. To give people the best protection over winter, those eligible for a free flu vaccine should come forward and book an appointment at either their GP practice or their local pharmacy, or take it up when offered by their employer or other healthcare provider.
The government has launched a nationwide advertising campaign, encouraging people to get their booster and flu jabs to protect themselves and their loved ones and help reduce pressures on the NHS. This includes outdoor billboards, broadcast and community radio and TV.