The vigour of the new booster programme is seeing doses now dwarfing those for people not yet vaccinated – despite vaccines having been recently rolled out to all 12 to 17 year olds.
Millions of people in England are yet to get their first dose.
NHS England has been publishing data on third ‘booster’ doses since the start of October – although the figures do not appear on the Government’s main dashboard of Covid data.
The figures show 2.55 million people had had a third dose as of midnight on 11 October, just weeks after the booster programme launched on 20 September.
That is the equivalent of 5.6% of the 16 and over population, according to Office for National Statistics population estimates.
Boosters are not open to people of any age – but neither are they restricted to a single age group, making calculations based on a population difficult.
People aged 50 and over are being invited for their third dose, as are health and social care workers, and clinically vulnerable people aged 16 or over.
Those who had a second dose at least six months ago are eligible.
In the week to midnight on 11 October, the NHS gave out an average of 161,000 booster doses per day.
That was seven times higher than the seven-day average for first doses, and 6.9 times higher than for second doses.
Overall, 77.6% of the vaccines given out by the NHS in that week were third doses. A very small number of these may not be ‘boosters’, but a third primary dose for people with severe immunosuppression.
As of 12 October, the NHS still has to vaccinate 14.4% of the over 12 population in England – 7.14 million people – to reach 100% coverage.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has warned that children could be put at risk by the slow rollout of vaccines in schools.
Better access to vaccine centres for school age children should be considered, he told the BBC’s Radio 4 programme.
Vaccines for children are being administered exclusively in schools, rather than walk-in centres.
Regional disparities are starting to appear in the booster vaccination data – although the lack of a true population count makes comparisons difficult.
As a proportion of the 16 and over population, the North East and Yorkshire NHS region has the highest uptake, at 6.3%. London is at the other end of the scale, at 4.7%.
London also has the lowest uptake in England for first and second doses.
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