The NHS vaccination programme will offer every adult the chance to book a COVID-19 booster vaccine by the end of the year in a race to protect the nation against the Omicron variant.
As part of the biggest and fastest vaccine programme in health service history, online bookings are available for all those in their 30s and above from today.
The national booking service will then open up to everyone aged 18 and over from Wednesday this week.
The NHS is prioritising bookings for boosters and is urging people to book a slot to guarantee their vital jab. Some vaccination sites may offer a walk-in service for 18s and over from tomorrow if they have spare capacity.
As the most complex and challenging phase of the rollout expands even further and faster, the NHS has asked every local area to dramatically increase the number of appointments they have in place for vaccinations.
Over the next week, opening hours for vaccine centres will be extended and every area of the country should have centres available that are open seven days a week.
More pop-up sites will be coming online with local areas looking at the most convenient sites for their communities – from trucks and buses in parks and shopping centres to sports stadiums and leisure centres.
There are already almost 3,000 sites across the country – more than at any point of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Even more new sites will go live throughout the week.
GP teams will be asked to clinically prioritise their services to free up maximal capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme, alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care. This might mean that for some people, routine appointments are postponed as part of the national mission to roll out boosters.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive said: “NHS staff were already working incredibly hard to deliver COVID-19 vaccines as swiftly as possible but the threat posed by Omicron is grave.
“Scientists are very concerned about the spread of Omicron due to the speed with which it spreads and because two doses do not appear to provide much protection but thankfully, a booster dramatically improves this.
“That is why the Government have asked us to prioritise boosters over other routine care.
“I know NHS staff will again, do everything in our power to rise to this extraordinary challenge and ensure the COVID-19 vaccination programme provides as much protection as possible as we prepare for a new wave of infections that could be even greater than those that have gone before.
“The online booking system is already open to millions of people and will shortly open to all adults – please don’t hesitate with your booking and get boosted now.”
Dr Emily Lawson, director of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme said: “The NHS is turbocharging the booster vaccination programme so that as many adults in England as possible can top up their immunity against the virus quickly.
“We know that speed is of the essence and so we will take every opportunity to improve access to the jab, from pop up sites in the community, GP teams doing even more vaccines each day and new sites opening up across the country
“The best way to get your vaccine is by booking online or by calling 119 – please do keep checking availability as we load more appointments onto the system every day.”
Jane Scattergood, senior responsible officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria COVID-19 vaccination programme, said: “Sites across Lancashire and South Cumbria are preparing to meet the huge demand for jabs over the coming days and weeks to receive strengthened protection against the Omicron variant.
“As soon as you are able, it is vital you come forward for a booster jab to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19 this Christmas. If you have not yet had a jab or need a second dose, we urge you to receive some protection against the disease.
“Our healthcare staff are working round the clock with support from our fantastic volunteers. If you can, please consider giving some time to volunteer at your local site.”
If you want to volunteer to support the vaccinations programme, register now at www.healthierlsc.co.uk/volunteer
Following the launch of a recruitment drive last week, the NHS is continuing to encourage people to come forward and help the NHS to save lives either as a volunteer or in a paid role in the programme.
NHS staff will also be redeployed so that they can focus on protecting the entire country as quickly as possible and military aid will be in place in every region across the country to support NHS staff with planning for the extra vaccinations.
Saturday was a record day for booster vaccines with 483,000 top-ups reported in just one day and since the booster rollout started in September, more than 19 million doses have already been delivered in England.
NHS chiefs are urging people to not delay their booster and book their jab in the run-up to the Christmas break.
The NHS has advised that the best way to get your booster quickly is by booking online or by calling 119 but if walk-in centres have capacity to do so, they can vaccinate adults aged 18 and over immediately.