The NHS is changing the booking system to allow people in England to arrange an appointment a month in advance, as the health service aims to ramp up vaccination uptake ahead of a “challenging” winter.
Currently, anyone eligible who had their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine six months ago can only book their top-up once those six months are up.
The update means that people can pre-book an appointment after five months, allowing them to roll up their sleeve on the day they reach the six-month milestone.
Health authorities hope this will speed up the booster rollout, strengthen the population’s waning immunity to the virus and help reduce pressures on the NHS.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Covid-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family ahead of a challenging winter and this change to the booking system will make it as easy as possible for people to book their booster jabs.
“This will accelerate the booster programme, ensure the NHS is able to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, and importantly help more people maintain protection against Covid-19 as we know immunity will dip over time.”
People can also book by calling 119 or turn up without an appointment at hundreds of walk-in vaccination sites across England six months after their second dose to get their top-up.
NHS England said more than nine million people have already had a top-up vaccine, and it wants to see those numbers bolstered ahead of colder winter weather which typically leads to increased virus transmission.
NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: “While this winter is undoubtedly going to be different, the most important thing you can do is come forward for both your Covid booster and flu jab as soon as possible – now with the added convenience of booking in advance – making it even easier to protect yourself and loves ones.”
People entitled to a booster jab are those aged 50 and over, people who live and work in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19, those aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from the virus, and people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections.
The NHS is also urging those eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up the offer.