A maternity support worker has spoken of her joy after becoming one of the first people in the UK to receive a Covid-19 booster jab.
Catherine Cargill, who works at Croydon University Hospital in south London, said the vaccination means she can carry on working, studying and spending time with her family.
The NHS officially launched its coronavirus booster campaign on Thursday, which will see millions of eligible people offered a Pfizer vaccine, or in some cases a half-dose of Moderna.
They include frontline NHS and social care staff, anyone aged 50 and over, and those under 50 with health conditions that put them at risk of severe Covid.
People are likely to be offered their booster jab in the same order of priority as was set down during the initial vaccination campaign.
Ms Cargill spoke of being “excited” and “privileged” to have been among the first to be jabbed.
She told the PA news agency: “I’ve been waiting for this jab like so many people following talk about the booster.
“When I heard it was going ahead, I had to get it to make sure I don’t get Covid or if I do, I’m not seriously ill, because I’m aware of the impact of getting it.
“I also wanted to make sure I can carry on working, I can carry on spending time with my family and can carry on with my studies.
“It went OK, I got the Pfizer vaccine, I braced myself for pain but it was a good surprise, I’m feeling fine and after 15 minutes I was back and working my normal shift.
“This has definitely made me feel safer and more confident knowing I will be protected with antibodies in a few weeks’ time, it was like my first vaccine in December last year.”
Becky Board, who injected Ms Cargill, said around 200 health workers had their booster jabs on Thursday.
She said: “It was a really jovial atmosphere which brought me right back to December last year.
“It was lovely to see so many staff from all walks of the trust, young and older people, queuing up to do the right thing.”
Hospital hubs have started inoculating frontline health and care workers in Wales and England, as well as identifying eligible patients, with GP-led local vaccination services to follow in the coming days.
GPs have been told they can give the winter flu jab at the same time if stocks allow, though they should not hold up administering either vaccination.
Further vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led sites will join the booster campaign in England from next week and continue vaccinating throughout the winter.
In line with guidance set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), people will only receive a booster shot at least six months after they received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
PA news agency analysis of Government data shows that just over 900,000 people in England aged 50 and over are currently at least six months on from receiving their second dose of vaccine, meaning they are eligible for a booster.
This number will reach 2.7 million by the start of October and 10.4 million by the start of November.
The Pfizer jab can be given as a third dose even if people originally received two doses of AstraZeneca.
NHS England said people will be contacted as they become eligible, via a call or text from a GP-led site or via the National Booking Service, which will start issuing invitations from next week.
However, some of those in the original nine priority groups will not be eligible for a top-up jab until the new year.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the Covid vaccination programme, said: “Alongside one of our busiest summers in the NHS, our hardworking staff have also been gearing up to deliver the autumn booster programme, to give further protection to healthcare and social care workers and those most at risk from the virus.
“Now that the decision has been taken by the JCVI, and once the relevant checks are in place, the NHS will invite you for your booster vaccination.
“There is no need to contact the NHS – we will be in touch with you when it is your turn to get your booster vaccine – at least six months on since your last dose.
“The fast preparations of staff to get ready for boosters comes on the back of our biggest vaccination drive in health history, which has delivered more than 77 million vaccinations across the country.
“Getting the vaccine remains the best way to protect yourself and those around you from Covid – so please do come forward for this top-up of protection when you are invited.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is brilliant to see that the first booster jabs are being rolled out today – thanks to the phenomenal efforts of the NHS who continue to work tirelessly to help us fight Covid-19 and protect the most vulnerable.
“We know vaccines save lives and, with every jab, our wall of defence across the country gets higher, with more than 112,300 lives saved and over 24 million cases prevented in England alone.
“I urge everyone who is eligible to come forward for their booster when invited, to prolong the protection that the vaccine offers those most at risk as we approach the winter months.”
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