The Government says it has hit its goal of offering every adult a booster jab by the end of the year – but up to 40% of bookings are no-shows, according to medics on the ground.
Boris Johnson vowed to give every adult the chance of getting a third dose by January 31, but moved this forward as Omicron began tearing through the UK.
Analysis shows around only 63% of all adults have now received a booster, as a record 189,213 daily cases are reported and hospitalisations surge.
It’s understood ministers believe they have met their target based on take-up and those eligible being contacted.
The NHS Confederation said it’s ‘encouraging’ to see people coming forward, but it had heard reports that some vaccination clinics were only a third full.
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.’
There were 2,082 Covid-19 hospital admissions on December 28 – a 90% week-on-week rise and the highest number since February 3.
But Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, says there is still no need for England to impose harsh restrictions, despite Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all ramping up rules.
He told The Times: ‘Trust chief executives are saying we should be careful interpreting the daily Covid hospital data.
‘Although the numbers are going up and going up increasingly rapidly, the absence of large numbers of seriously ill older people is providing significant reassurance. But they are aware that this may change after the Christmas period.
‘Trust CEOs know that the government has a high threshold to cross before it will introduce extra restrictions and can see why, in the absence of that surge of severely ill older people, that threshold hasn’t been crossed yet.’
More than 33.5 million booster and third doses have now been delivered in the UK, with 1.8 million during the festive period over the past seven days.
Those who delivered vaccines have been praised for an ‘unprecedented’ achievement, with the NHS national booking system only opened to all over-18s two weeks ago.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘delighted’ to confirm the booster target had been hit.
He said: ‘I am incredibly proud of the work the NHS has done to accelerate the programme and offer my thanks to the frontline staff, volunteers, Armed Forces and British public who have made it possible for us to meet this commitment.’
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting added: ‘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.’
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