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Covid vaccines: health leaders warn over booster appointment no-shows - as government claims target reached

The Department of Health and Social Care claims to have hit its target of offering all over-18s the Covid booster jab by 31 December

Health leaders have warned that up to 40% of booked vaccine appointments are no-shows.

The warning comes as the Government said it has met its target of offering every adult a booster jab by the end of the year.

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The  Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) claimed on Friday (31 December) that it had met the goal set by the Prime Minister to ensure all eligible over-18s in England had the chance to get their vaccines by December 31.

It is understood this is based on the take-up of boosters and those eligible being contacted.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • The NHS Confederation said it was “encouraging” to see people coming forward for their jabs.
  • However, chief executive Matthew Taylor said some primary care leaders had told the organisation that people were not turning up to as many as 40% of their booked appointments.
  • Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “delighted” to confirm the booster target had been hit.
  • The Government set a target at the end of November to offer a booster jab to everyone eligible aged 18 and over by the end of January 2021.
  • But this goal was subsequently brought forward by a month in response to the emerging threat of the new variant sweeping across the country.

What’s been said

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said: “It is encouraging to see people still coming forward for their first and second doses, as well as the massive achievement on boosters.

“However, cases of Omicron are rising rapidly… Health leaders are worried about the level of illness and demand that their staff across the NHS could have to respond to in January and so, it is vital that everyone who is eligible takes up the offer of a jab or booster shot.

“Some primary care leaders are telling us their vaccination clinics are only a third full and that people are not turning up to as many as 40% of their booked appointments.

“While walk-ins continue to be on offer, they are calling on people to stick to their scheduled vaccine appointments and if they can’t for whatever reason that they cancel with notice as this will help manage pressures, particularly given the staffing crisis we are facing currently.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “While eagle-eyed observers will note that the Prime Minister shifted the goalposts on what he actually promised to deliver, this should not detract one bit from the fact that the NHS has pulled off an unprecedented number of vaccinations in recent weeks.

“Everyone involved should be enormously proud of what they’ve achieved, from volunteer vaccinators through to members of our armed forces drafted in to help.

“I urge everyone who has yet to receive their first, second or booster jab to book without delay.”

Background

Boris Johnson said on December 12 that it was clear two doses of the vaccine were “simply not enough” to give the level of protection needed and that, without a boosted population, the NHS could be overwhelmed.

He therefore set a new deadline of offering every adult in England a booster by December 31.

The Welsh Government also announced on Friday a booster vaccination appointment had been offered to every eligible adult in the country.

More than 1.5 million boosters have been administered in Wales, with 81% of over 50s and 70% of eligible people aged over 12 receiving their third jab.

The NHS national booking system was opened to all people over the age of 18 on December 15.

According to analysis by the PA news agency, around 63% of all adults in the UK have now received a booster or third dose.

A total of 435,293 booster and third doses of Covid-19 vaccine were reported in the UK on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since December 23.

More than 33.5 million booster and third doses have now been delivered in the UK, with 1.8 million in the past seven days.

The figures have been published by the UK’s four health agencies.

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