Covid: People double-jabbed three months ago can book booster from December 13

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports on the rush to get booster vaccines amid rising cases in the UK

The UK's accelerated Covid booster jab drive will begin no later than December 13, the NHS has said, with those double-vaccinated at least three months ago able to book their third dose from that date.

In a letter sent to health leaders, NHS England said the booking service for booster jabs would be updated to reflect the reduction of the time between doses to three months “as soon as possible and no later than December 13”.

The government was pushed into dramatically extending its vaccination programme by the emergence of a worrying new variant, known as Omicron, amid fears it may be able to evade immunity to some degree.

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In a bid to further protect Britons, the booster jab programme was widened to include all adults over-18, and 12 to 15 year olds were told they would soon be offered their second dose after previously only allowed the first.

And the delay between second and third doses was reduced from six months to three, doubling the number of people eligible.

The letter to health bosses confirmed booster doses of the coronavirus vaccine would be delivered “in descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a Covid-19 at-risk group first”.

It confirmed there were “no supply challenges” with either Moderna or Pfizer booster stocks, and that while it was recognised that the health service was under pressure, it stressed there was a “new national mission” to up the delivery of the jabs.

GP surgeries will be allowed to defer routine health checks for those aged 75 and over to free up capacity to deliver the vaccines.

The PM has promised that everyone in England eligible for a coronavirus booster jab will be offered one by the end of January.

The NHS is administering around 350,000 booster jabs a day, according to official figures, but that figure will need to increase dramatically if the government wants to use third doses to drive up immunity in eligible people.

It has been estimated that another 30 million people will need to have been offered a vaccine within the next two months for the target to be met.

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It is not yet clear how much of an impact the Omicron variant could have on vaccinated people's immunity to Covid, with concerns jabs could be less effective against it, but experts believe a booster dose will help defend against severe disease.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "It's possible that they might be less effective against this new variant but its also very likely that they will remain effective against serious disease."

It's for this reason the UK this week secured a 114 million more vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which the government says will be enough for booster jab schemes to run until 2023.

These vaccines are understood to be the most effective as boosters, University Hospital Southampton's CovBoost study announced on Friday, however they have not been tested against the Omicron variant.

Mr Javid has said the government will put the UK's booster jab programme "on steroids" and Boris Johnson said new vaccine centres would be "popping up like Christmas trees".