NHS chief urges 6.4 million stragglers to get Covid jab

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A year to the day since the world’s first Covid jab was administered in the UK, the message to get a shot was never more important, according to NHS England medical director Prof Stephen Powis. It comes as figures show one in 10 eligible people in the UK ‑ some 6.4 million ‑ remain unjabbed, 2.4 million of them younger people. That is despite research showing those who have had Covid and a vaccine are better able to fend off new variants.

Prof Powis insisted “vaccines are our main way out of this pandemic” and warned the NHS was under “intense pressure” but is confident it can meet the target of offering all adults in England boosters before the end of January.

He said: “What’s really important is that you get that jab.

“The way the public can help us to reduce those numbers in hospital is to make sure that you have your first or second dose and, of course, that all-important booster, which data has shown is highly effective against preventing severe disease.

“We have around 6,000 patients with Covid in hospital and that’s been fairly constant since the end of July. There is no doubt that the NHS is under intense pressure ‑ those are 6,000 patients we wouldn’t normally have at this time of year.

“And of course, we have additional beds closed because of the strict infection control measures we quite rightly have in our hospitals.

“So it feels very busy. And there’s a possibility that other infections such as flu might start to circulate more.”

Prof Powis’s plea comes as it emerged that 24 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds – the equivalent of around 2.4 million – have not been vaccinated.

And with Omicron case numbers continuing to rise and scientists predicting that the variant will dominate “in weeks”, data offered more evidence that being vaccinated, and boosted when eligible, is vital.

Researchers in California analysed people who had recovered from Covid earlier in the pandemic and found that having a vaccine enabled them to produce high-quality antibodies that could act against variants.

These were more powerful than those produced by either natural infection or vaccine alone.

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