A huge number of people in England are not turning up for their Covid vaccine appointments, health leaders have said, saying as many as 40% of bookings are missed.
The revelation comes as the government claimed to have met its coronavirus booster jabs target, and that every adult in England had been offered a top-up shot.
The NHS Confederation said it was “encouraging” to see people coming forward and getting their Covid-19 jabs but that it was receiving reports that some sites were only a third full.
People have been urged to get the booster jab to tackle a growing number of cases of the Omicron variant of the virus. Confirmed daily Covid cases in the UK hit yet another high on Thursday, with 189,213 reported in the past 24 hours, while the number of people in hospital and deaths have also risen, data reveals.
Evidence showed that having two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine does not provide strong protection against Omicron. However, a third dose provides about 70% protection against symptomatic infection.
Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it had been informed by some primary care leaders that people were not showing up to as many as 40% of their scheduled bookings.
“It is encouraging to see people still coming forward for their first and second doses, as well as the massive achievement on boosters,” he said. “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.”
On Friday, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, welcomed news the booster had been offered to all adults in England. He said these efforts meant that “tens of millions of people” got to see loved ones this Christmas.
He added that he was “incredibly proud” of the work the NHS had done to accelerate the programme, and thanked “the frontline staff, volunteers, armed forces and British public who have made it possible for us to meet this commitment”.