Hundreds of thousands of people are yet to come forward
Covid-19 booster jabs have been given to more than two-thirds of those with a weakened immune system but hundreds of thousands of people who are at risk and more likely to become seriously ill have yet to come forward, health chiefs have warned.
NHS England said 67% of those with a weakened immune system has been vaccinated but some may not be aware they have a condition that makes them eligible for a top-up.
Pregnant women, people who have a learning disability or severe mental illness, or those with chronic conditions, blood cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and asthma, are among individuals considered at risk by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who can get a booster.
Around 6.4 million people are eligible for the booster jab because of a medical condition.
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “While we have seen fantastic uptake of the Covid booster, we know that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are at increased risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from Covid but are yet to come forward.
“Some of these people may not even be aware that they or a loved one meet the criteria to get a jab due to an existing condition they have.
“The NHS is now urging everyone to check whether they or someone they know meets the criteria – and to go on to the National Booking Service and self-declare if they are yet to do so – it could be the best gift you give a loved one this Christmas.”
It takes up to 14 days to get maximum protection from a booster dose and the public are being urged to act now ahead of the festive period.
More than 16 million people have had a Covid-19 booster while 18 million have had a flu jab, according to NHS England.
NHS England added that 71% of people who are considered to be severely immunosuppressed have had a top-up jab.
Health bosses also stressed the importance that carers and household contacts of anyone with a weakened immune system should also get boosted.
Everyone aged over 50 and health and social care workers can also get the jab on the NHS.
The NHS has now invited everyone they know about for the extra vaccine dose, but added around 350,000 people have self-declared as being at risk and health bosses encouraged others to step forward.
Douglas Twenefour, head of care at Diabetes UK, described vaccines as “the safest, most effective way of protecting us from coronavirus and flu”, adding: “People with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they get coronavirus.
“People with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing serious complications from flu.”
Paul Howard, chief executive of Lupus UK said: “We have spoken with people who are ‘fatigued’ by the number and frequency of Covid-19 vaccines but it is recommended that higher-risk groups continue to have this additional protection.
“Recent evidence has shown that the more doses of Covid-19 vaccine an immunosuppressed person has, the more likely they are to produce a measurable immune response.”
Meg Stapleton, policy manager at the MS Society said the “relentless, painful and disabling” nature of the illness means it is important for sufferers to try and maintain their level of protection from Covid-19 along with the seasonal flu.
Helen Rowntree, chief executive officer at Blood Cancer UK, said: “While people with blood cancer might not respond to the Covid-19 vaccine as well as someone without blood cancer, some protection is better than none and the vaccine remains our best defence against the virus.”
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