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Millions 'to get Covid booster month early as over-50s able to book jab quicker'

People aged over 50 will be able to book a third vaccine shot a month earlier in order to speed up booster jabs, according to a new report. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid will tell NHS leaders to allow a third shot five months after a second dose instead of six as he aims to protect people from coronavirus this winter, The Mail on Sunday reported.

Earlier this week, he urged eligible people to get a booster jab and the flu vaccine as he warned cases could hit 100,000 a day.

But at the moment, those eligible for a booster jab cannot book in advance and must wait an average of 18 days after the six months to get an appointment for a third vaccination.

This is one of the reasons only approximately 4.5 million out of the 9.3 million people who qualify for the booster have received one, The Mail on Sunday added. 

The newspaper said Government sources had promised the new rules would be put in place as soon as possible, allowing eligible people to book a month in advance.

Those eligible for boosters include anyone aged 50 and over, people living and working in care homes for the elderly, and frontline health and social care workers.

The Prime Minister’s advisors have also considered shortening the six-month window for a booster, but the current time is the optimum period to maximise immunity levels.

Boris Johnson and senior health chiefs are calling on the nation to get vaccinated against Covid-19 amid mounting concern over rising infection levels ahead of Christmas.

The PM said vaccines would get the country through the winter and out of the pandemic, while NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said getting a booster will ‘protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned’.

The repeated calls for people to get jabbed come as Mr Johnson resists pleas from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising number of cases.

Downing Street insisted there was still spare capacity in the NHS and that Plan B would only be activated if it came under ‘significant pressure’.

Plan B includes working-from-home guidance and the mandatory use of face masks.

Mr Johnson, who has said there are no plans for another lockdown, said: ‘Vaccines are our way through this winter.’

Prof Powis, who said this week that the NHS feels ‘exceptionally busy’, has written in the Sunday Telegraph that it will ‘no doubt be a tough winter’.

He said this time last year there were more than 6,800 people in hospital with Covid, and this weekend the figure is 6,405, but in 2020 the nation was still six weeks away from the world’s first vaccination.

Mr Javid is also said to be ready to enforce laws to make Covid vaccines mandatory for people working for the NHS. 

The calls for people to get their boosters come after Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said case numbers and death rates are currently ‘unacceptable’.

The Government said that as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 44,985 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.

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