Almost 40% of over-65s not yet taken COVID booster jab for Christmas

By John Mercury December 1, 2023

Almost 40% of people aged 65 and over in England have not had their COVID jab for the winter, as the NHS urges more to come forward ahead of Christmas.

NHS England has said more than 4.5 million eligible people had their COVID jab at the same time as getting a flu vaccine as part of an autumn rollout – a new record.

A total of 11,404,669 people have been vaccinated against COVID this autumn, while 16,190,661 have had their flu vaccine, according to the health service.

But with 61.5% of all over-65s vaccinated against COVID so far in this year’s autumn campaign, the NHS says they are urging the rest to book an appointment.

“We’re getting closer to the festive period when lots of people will be coming together with their families and friends,” Steve Russell, NHS England’s director for vaccinations and screening, said.

“And getting vaccinated is the best way to keep you and those around you from getting seriously ill during the colder months.

“So, if you haven’t yet taken up the offer – now is the time to do so, nobody wants to be unwell at Christmas.”

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, people who received an autumn booster vaccine last year were around 53% less likely to go to hospital with COVID in the following month.

Last year’s autumn booster programme saw almost 84% of over-80s vaccinated, the department claimed, and more than 73% of 65-70-year-olds.

How do appointments work?

Registered Nurse Laura Hastings administers a covid booster to Andrew Young, 72, at Victoria Manor Care home in Edinburgh to launch the winter vaccine programme. Picture date: Monday September 5, 2022.

With online bookings for both vaccines closing from 15 December, health leaders warn it is “crucial to get this protection” while the autumn rollout continues.

Appointments can be made through the NHS App or 119 phone number – with the last day to secure jabs via these services being 14 December.

It takes two weeks for the vaccines to build up maximum protection, so the health service recommends booking as soon as possible to be ready for the Christmas period.

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“It only takes a few moments to book your flu and COVID vaccines online,” Mr Russell said.

“With just two weeks to go until online bookings close, we’re urging those who haven’t yet come forward to do so.”

What happens after autumn?

A dose of the new Moderna spikevax autumn Covid booster vaccination

It is still possible to book vaccinations after 15 December through local NHS vaccination services, like pharmacies or walk-in sites.

However, there will be fewer COVID appointments, and you may need to travel further, the NHS says.

These services will be available until 31 January, after which point people will need to wait for a future seasonal campaign, unless they develop a new health condition.

For those eligible for a free flu vaccine after 15 December, it will still be possible to book one by contacting their GP surgery or by finding a pharmacy that offers the jab if you’re 18 or over.

The free flu vaccine offer will then close after 31 March.

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