New targets would see doctors and other medical officials offer boosters to one million more people, increasing from 2.5 million to 3.5 million. Coming changes would also see age boundaries lowered, as ministers aim to cover every adult by the new year. But recent data casts doubt on whether the NHS can accomplish this, as it is still attempting to catch up with targets set in September.
When can you get your Covid vaccine?
The ambitious new NHS targets come as the service struggles to meet others.
In September, NHS England revealed it would aim to complete vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds by the October half term.
But the holiday – which fell between October 26 and 30 this year – came and went, and that target with it.
Just one in three children within the age group living in London has received their first jab, figures from the House of Commons Library show.
Regions currently bearing most of the Covid burden are also struggling, as just 40 percent of the group have had a single jab in the northwest and Midlands.
And this may not change much over the next few months.
Despite heroic attempts from NHS personnel to cover the UK as it struggles under the weight of increasing hospitalisations, the new variant has forced it to refocus its attention elsewhere.
Scientists fear Omicron could bypass some protection afforded by the vaccine, and boosters are the Government’s answer to the developing threat.
Ministers have asked the NHS to redouble its vaccine targets and cover more people after cutting booster waiting periods.
Previously, adults aged 40 and over had to wait at least six months before receiving the jab, designed to reforge and strengthen waning immunity from the other two.
New rules will see under 40s contacted three months after their last vaccine, and the online booking site updated to reflect the changes by December 13.
Speaking from Downing Street on December 1, the Prime Minister said the booster programme would work through the British population in age bands.
Boris Johnson explained while he hoped to “offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January”, people would only receive theirs when it is their turn.
As with the last programme, five age bands will ensure the “most vulnerable” get theirs first.
Mr Johnson added: “It is vital that the older and the more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”
When the booking service is updated, he said, even people who have had their vaccine “over three months ago” should wait “until the NHS says it is your turn”.
Bosses have confirmed meeting these new duties will mean drawing assistance from elsewhere.
A letter addressed to local health leaders from NHS England chiefs confirmed staff may have to suspend regular services to achieve the new aims.
From December 1 to March 31, they confirmed contractors who consider it “clinically appropriate” can defer “routine health checks” for new patients and over 75s to prioritise delivering jabs.
The letter added St John Ambulance volunteers and military staffers would also shore up the new efforts.
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