Two million people who are eligible for a Covid booster vaccine in England will receive their invitation this week as ministers seek to intensify the rollout.
The government has launched a media blitz encouraging people to get a booster jab, amid mounting concern over the speed of the vaccination rollout as Covid hospitalisations rise.
NHS England said on Sunday that more than 5 million people had had a third jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month.
About 7.5 million people have already been invited by text, email and letter, encouraging them to book through the national booking service. Two million more will receive invitations this week.
Figures suggest a slight increase in uptake in recent days. Saturday was the best day on record, with 325,140 jabs administered. In total, over the last three days, 828,729 boosters were administered, NHS England said.
Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, tweeted on Sunday: “Yesterday was the biggest day yet for Covid booster jabs: more than 325,000 people getting vital protection. In the past three days over 800,000 people have had their booster jab.”
The NHS is sticking to guidance that boosters should be delivered at least six months after the second dose, with evidence suggesting this is the best time to increase immunity to Covid.
About 10 million people in England are now eligible for a booster, including health and care workers, those with underlying health conditions, and people aged 50 and over.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said: “Winter is coming and infection rates are rising and so it’s now really important that everyone receiving their invite for a booster vaccine from the NHS this week books in at one of the convenient vaccinations sites around the country offering this crucial, additional protection.”
Boris Johnson, who has resisted pleas from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising number of cases, said vaccines would get the country through the winter and out of the pandemic.
But Prof Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said on Sunday the vaccination programme would not be enough to bring coronavirus numbers under control.
While vaccines are very effective at stopping people from getting seriously ill, they are not so effective at stopping infections altogether or halting the spread of the virus.
“They do have an effect on that, but they’re not by themselves going to be enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control,” Finn told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday.