The government needs to speed up its vaccine programme to ensure covid-19 boosters are given to all those who are eligible as soon as possible.

This is the opinion of SAGE advisor Neil Ferguson, who stated it is “critical we accelerate” the booster drive so those 8.5 million people who require the third dose – including all those over the age of 50, frontline health staff and carers, and patients with underlying conditions – are given it before the “challenging” winter commences.

The Daily Mail reported how the epidemiologist at Imperial College London believes the vaccine initiative needs to build momentum, as only 3.7 million people in England who are eligible for a booster have received one since they started being given out last month.

As a result, there are approximately five million people in the country who still need to receive their booster to avoid putting too much pressure on the NHS this winter or lockdown measures to be reintroduced.

Chief executive of the NHS Amanda Pritchard told MPs on the Health Committee: “It’s really important that we now absolutely do get the message out that is Covid is still with us.”

Despite this, she insisted the NHS has “plenty of capacity” to fully protect those whose second dose was more than six months ago. However, she said they are not coming forward quickly enough.

The slow progress being made to handing out boosters could be down to the government’s priority to vaccinate secondary school children.

Youngsters aged between 12 and 15 are being given a single Pfizer dose across England, Scotland and Wales. So far, children in England have been vaccinated in their schools. However, after half-term, they will be able to receive their jab at vaccination centres, with parents able to book appointments online.

There has been a lot of pressure on the government to rollout the vaccination programme for teenagers, as the spread of Covid-19 among this age group is at an all-time high.

According to Reuters, eight per cent of secondary school children are currently infected with the coronavirus, which could be fuelling a national rise in cases.

Speaking with the news provider, Lawrence Young, virologist at University of Warwick said: “The worry at the moment is it is clear that the vaccination programme in 12- to 15-year-olds is not going very well.”

He went on to say: “With all of what that means not only again for schools, but also for overwhelming the NHS… then the worry is that autumn and winter are going to get very, very messy.”

The expert believes not only could this lead to a spread of Covid-19 among secondary schools, but also among more vulnerable adults, putting additional pressure on the NHS, which also has to cope with typical seasonal illnesses.

Subsequently, the government is also attempting a huge flu vaccination drive to protect as many people as possible. Earlier this year, it warned social distancing measures might have resulted in a lower level of immunity against influenza. Consequently, more Brits could be susceptible to the virus and the 2021 to 2022 flu season could be up to 50 per cent larger than normal.

Sajid Javid, secretary of state for health and social care, said: “This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history, alongside the new Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout. Both are important to provide vital protection not only to yourself, but also your loved ones while also helping to ease pressure on the NHS.”

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