Politics

Race to save Christmas: Huge boost as 10 MILLION get booster jabs

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Ten million third shots have now been administered in the UK with Sajid Javid saying it is now a “national mission” to get people to have the top-up.

The Health Secretary urged more people to have their booster so the country can “avoid a return to restrictions and enjoy Christmas”.

The milestone was reached after 409,663 third-doses were given out on Saturday – the highest single day figure so far.

At the current rate the government is on course to triple-vaccinate most of its target in time for the festive period.

Boris Johnson hailed the latest figures, saying in a tweet: “An amazing 10 million people across the UK have already come forward for their booster.

“We know vaccine immunity wanes over time, so boosters are vital in keeping you and your loved ones protected through the winter.

“Please get this lifesaving jab as soon as you are called.”

The third shots are available for the over-50s and those deemed most at risk from coronavirus with 30 million people across the UK eventually eligible for a top-up.

So far about 30 percent of over-80s and 40 percent of over-50s in England have not yet had their booster.

While two vaccine doses give people high levels of protection, immunity reduces over time, particularly for at-risk groups.

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) estimates the protection against needing hospital treatment for a Covid infection falls.

Experts say even small dips in immunity among at-risk people will affect the NHS’s ability to cope this winter, as it will likely lead to significantly more people needing hospital treatment.

Mr Javid added: “We know immunity begins to wane after six months, especially for the elderly and the vulnerable, and booster vaccines will top up their protection to keep people safe over the winter.

“I strongly urge everybody who is eligible for a Covid-19 booster or flu vaccine to take up the offer as soon as you can.

“And if you haven’t yet had your first and second vaccines, it is not too late, the NHS will always be there to welcome you with open arms.”

The rollout began in September, and people in England have had to wait until six months after their second dose before they have been eligible to book.

But from Monday, they can make their appointment after five months, although they will still only be able to actually receive the booster after six months.

The welcome news comes as figures show that reported cases of the virus continue to fall, with another 30,305 cases recorded on Sunday.

A further 62 people died within 28 days of a positive test.

The UK Health Security Agency’s Dr Susan Hopkins indicated the worst of the pandemic could be over.

She said that while it is too early to say the virus has nowhere else to go, its changes are likely to be “smaller and more incremental from here on in”.

Outlining if she thinks this will be the last Christmas where people will be wearing face masks, Dr Hopkins told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Hopefully this will be the last Christmas where we have to think that way. I think we’ll know much more when we get to the spring and as time goes on.

“I do think, though, that this is going to be part of our endemic seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses.”

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said he believes the Covid pandemic will soon be considered endemic and “draconian” lockdowns should be avoided.

He told Times Radio: “I think all of us in the NHS recognise that we are now moving from a situation of a pandemic towards an endemic where we need to live with Covid.

“Everybody in the NHS absolutely recognises that it’s our job to cope as best we can with Covid pressures, without resorting to the very draconian lockdowns that we’ve had to go through before.”

He added NHS staff recognise the “impact” of jabs as vaccinated people are less likely to be admitted to hospital or die.

“The NHS needs to do absolutely everything it can to avoid having to call on measures to restrict social contact because of the impact of those measures,” he said.

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