England’s Covid-19 National Booking System will allow people to pre-book their booster appointment a month before they are eligible.
Everyone aged over 50 and all those most at risk from Covid-19 should get a booster six months after their second dose.
From today (November 8), they will be able to book their appointment after five months. This means that someone could pre-book their jab for the day they reach the six month milestone, rather than waiting days or weeks for a convenient appointment.
This comes after clinical guidance was updated last week to enable Covid-19 boosters to be given slightly earlier to those at highest risk, where this makes operational sense to do so.
This includes care home residents who may have received their second doses at different times to be vaccinated in the same session, as long as it has been five months since their second dose.
It may also help with other vulnerable groups, such as housebound patients, so that they can have their flu and Covid-19 vaccines at the same time.
Health bosses said more than 9.3m people have already received their top-up vaccine, ensuring the vital protection they have secured from their first two doses is maintained over the winter months.
This change to the booking system will further speed up the booster roll out.
People can also book by calling 119 or get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country six months after their second dose without an appointment. Those eligible can use the NHS online walk-in finder to locate the most convenient site.
Health and Social Care 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.
“Please do not delay, come and get the jab to keep the virus at bay.”
The colder weather traditionally leads to increased transmission of viruses and will be challenging for the NHS.
Vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, so it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their Covid-19 booster vaccine to top-up their defences and protect themselves this winter.
The latest evidence from SAGE shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65 per cent, up to three months after the second dose, to 45 per cent six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90 per cent to 65 per cent for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95 per cent to 75 per cent for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99 per cent to 90 per cent for Pfizer/BioNTech.
NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said although the vaccine effectiveness against severe disease remains high, a small change can generate a major shift in hospital admissions.
For example, a change from 95 per cent to 90 per cent protection against hospitalisation would lead to doubling of admissions in those vaccinated.
The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.
Powis said: “Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff well over seven million people in England have already received their lifesaving booster vaccine, as the NHS moved at pace to get jabs in arms, within less than 48 hours of getting updated advice from the JCVI.
“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.”