Over-18s in England invited to book Covid boosters

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People are seen in a queue for their booster dose while standing at social distance outside the NHS vaccination centre at Westfield StratfordImage source, Getty Images

People aged 18 and over in England are now eligible to book a Covid-19 booster jab under the latest widening of the vaccination programme.

The NHS national booking system has been extended to all adults, having opened to those aged over 30 on Monday.

People are eligible for a booster three months after a second jab, but they can book after two months.

The government aims to offer all adults in England the chance to book a booster before 31 December.

The NHS is scrambling to offer top-up doses to as many people as possible amid warnings the UK could be hit by a huge wave of Omicron infections.

On Tuesday, England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty told a virtual cabinet meeting it remained too early to say how severe the Omicron variant was, but the UK should expect a significant increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with it.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the same meeting the UK was set for a "huge spike" in infections.

In a new television advert to support the booster rollout, Prof Whitty urges the public to "please, get boosted now" in the face of the Omicron variant, which he said was "highly infectious and spreading fast".

"Boosters give you the best possible protection against the virus and should significantly reduce your risk of serious illness and hospitalisation," he adds.

Dr Emily Lawson, head of the Covid vaccination programme for NHS England, said health service staff were "working flat out to set up more sites and put on extra appointments".

Walk-in vaccination centres across the country have already seen long queues for booster jabs, with the NHS booking website repeatedly crashed as thousands tried to book appointments.

So far, more than 24 million booster doses have been administered across the UK, with 513,722 booster and third doses given on Monday.

On Tuesday, the UK recorded 59,610 new Covid cases, the highest number since January, along with 150 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

The UK Health Security Agency said 633 further UK Omicron cases were reported on Tuesday, taking the total number of confirmed cases of the variant to 5,346.

People in Scotland aged between 18 and 29 are also eligible to book a booster from Wednesday, with the Scottish government aiming to hit the same 31 December target as UK ministers.

Wales is also aiming for the same deadline and the public are asked to wait to be invited for their booster with older and higher-risk people being prioritised.

Northern Ireland's booster plan is being accelerated, with walk-in jabs available for over-30s.

Scientists have warned that two doses of a Covid vaccine are not enough to stop people catching the Omicron variant, but a booster dose could prevent around 75% of people getting any symptoms.

On Tuesday, Prof Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) told the Science and Technology Committee of MPs it was crucial to administer the top-up doses before the Omicron wave hits.