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Covid boosters available on Christmas Day in NHS 'jingle jab' campaign
24 December 2021, 00:01 | Updated: 24 December 2021, 08:03
Boris Johnson has urged people to come forward to get a Covid booster jab, as the latest data suggests the Omicron variant of the virus may be milder than others.
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The Prime Minister used his Christmas message to tell people to get the "wonderful" gift of a booster jab as part of the "neighbourly" spirit of the season.
People will be able to step away from Christmas celebrations to get boosted on December 25, as part of the national drive to top-up everyone's protection against Omicron.
NHS England said its 'jingle jab' campaign will see around 200,000 booster appointments made available across the country over the festive period, with jabs offered on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Scores of local vaccination centres, which have recently reopened at football stadiums, community hubs and town halls across the country, will open their doors so people can best protect themselves against the new variant.
The campaign is part of the Government's aim to offer every adult a booster jab by the end of the year, following rising cases of the new variant.
Mr Johnson will tell the nation in a Christmas message: "Though the time for buying presents is theoretically running out, there is still a wonderful thing you can give your family and the whole country, and that is to get that jab, whether it is your first or second, or your booster.
"So that next year's festivities are even better than this year's."
He will describe a Covid vaccine as "an invisible and invaluable present".
The PM will add: "We have been getting that vaccination that protects us and stops us infecting others.
"And I hope I can be forgiven for taking pride in the immense spirit of neighbourliness that the people of this country have shown.
"Getting jabbed not just for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet.
"And that, after all, is the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this enormous festival, that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
"And so let's think of all those who are being good neighbours and thinking of others.
"All those in the NHS working over Christmas, our care workers, everyone involved in the incredible vaccination campaign."
As he opens his message, he will refer to the spread of Omicron, saying: "After two years of this pandemic, I can't say that we are through it. "How can I?
"When Omicron is surging, when we all know, we must together try to stop the spread of this new variant, we must test ourselves and take extra care when meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives.
"We know that things remain difficult."
Earlier this month, Mr Johnson announced that every eligible adult in England is to be offered a top-up injection by the end of December, a month earlier than previously planned, while resources are being made available to the devolved nations to speed up delivery.
This makes up the "Omicron Emergency Boost" plan, which Mr Johnson said was a "national mission unlike anything we have seen before in the vaccination programme".
It reflects concern that two doses of the vaccine offer only reduced protection against the fast-spreading Omicron strain while a third jab significantly increases the protection provided.
NHS England advised booking in advance for jabs over the festive period, but said there will be options available for people without appointments across the country, including in Eastbourne, Hartlepool, Croydon and Dewsbury.
Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS Covid vaccination programme, said: "We've seen record after record broken in the run-up to the festive season and I want to thank every NHS staff member and volunteer whose goodwill and determination to protect their communities will keep the booster rollout going this Christmas weekend.
"This Christmas, before sitting down to your dinner with your family, I would encourage anyone not already boosted to come forward, book an appointment and get the gift of a jab."
The drive to get more people boosted over the festive week comes after a bumper weekend of 1.5 million doses and a record-breaking week for booster jabs.
On Wednesday, 1.06 million vaccines were administered, the highest number ever - 968,665 of which were top-up doses.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid paid tribute to NHS staff and volunteers giving up their time with family and friends to help the booster rollout over Christmas.
He said: "Thank-you for everything that you've done and everything that you're doing - this Christmas and all year round.
"You continue to be the very best of us - you achieve phenomenal things and I'm proud to call you colleagues."
NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard praised the "extraordinary team effort" of health service staff in the face of Omicron.
"I know it is a worrying time professionally and personally for everyone, and that many colleagues are drained after such a gruelling period," she said.
"The NHS is nothing without its incredible staff. This time, thanks to NHS staff and volunteers, we are armed with the protection offered by first, second and booster doses."