When the NHS celebrated its birthday earlier in July, I was struck by suggestions the best present we could give the NHS was to get a Covid jab.
The evidence is clear – vaccines are weakening the link between infection and hospitalisation, and this means a much-reduced risk of the NHS being overwhelmed by the current wave of infection.
Although all adults in the UK have now been offered a vaccine, and two-thirds of adults across the country are fully protected by both doses, there are still a significant number of people who have not yet come forward for vaccination.
As we see legal restrictions lifted this week, it is vital we reach as many un-jabbed adults as possible, building the collective protection that we know is so important for individuals, for their communities and for our health services.
In particular, we need more young people to come forward. It is perhaps not surprising that young adults feel less motivated to get vaccinated, knowing that for most the virus poses little direct risk.
But this misses the key issue of transmission, and the risk the virus finds its way to the most vulnerable among us.
It also misses the point that it is still possible for young people to become seriously ill or to develop Long Covid – a range of debilitating conditions we don’t yet fully understand, but is thought to affect as many as two million people across the country.
And with the opportunity if double vaccinated to now avoid self-isolation when returning from the vast majority of amber countries, or from August 16 if in contact with someone who tests positive, it makes good sense to take up the opportunity.
Also announced this week, double-vaccinated front-line NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate will be permitted to attend work in exceptional circumstances, with some testing mitigations in place.
Looking at the data for Hampshire, almost 97 per cent of those aged over 75 have had a first dose, with more than 95 per cent having had both doses.
That falls to 69 per cent for those aged over 30 who have had a single dose, and 23 per cent of them having had both although, of course, more are coming up to their second jab all the time.
The roll-out continues and the UK has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world, but we need to do more if we are to stay on track.
Anyone over 18 can book an appointment via the national booking system or by calling 119.
Details of ‘grab a jab’ walk-in centres are available through the national NHS website, including sites in Farnham, Fleet, Aldershot, Guildford and Chichester.
There are also walk-in services operating at the Basingstoke fire station, Oakley Road in Southampton, and St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth during July, with some other GP-led services also operating pop-up clinics.
Access to real-world data is helping to inform decisions and plans, and will be used to refine programmes going forward, but plans are already advancing for the booster jab that will be rolled out in the autumn.
From September providers will also offer the flu vaccine to more than 35 million people during the winter season, including all secondary school students up to Year 11 for the first time, building on the record number of people who were offered a vaccine last year.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation confirmed this week its advice that children at increased risk of developing a serious illness with Covid should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
That includes children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities.
The recommendation includes children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person.
Boosting our immunity against Covid and flu will go a long way to help protect those who are most vulnerable and to protect the services they rely on.
Every single jab will make a difference.