Health chiefs in Northamptonshire have welcomed a move to open up bookings for Covid-19 vaccination boosters a month early.
Those over-50s who are eligible for third jabs can now book appointments five months after their second dose to ensure they get jabs on the day they reach the six-month milestone rather than waiting extra days or weeks for a convenient appointment.
The number of known Covid-related deaths in the county's two main hospitals reached 1,300 since the pandemic began following confirmation by NHS England that two people sadly passed away on Sunday (November 7) — 763 at Northampton General Hospital and 538 at Kettering General Hospital.
Of those, 32 died during the last 28 days.
Experts fear protection against the most severe symptoms of the virus is wearing off and have criticised a lack of urgency over the boosters rollout.
Nationally, figures suggest that fewer than half of those eligible have so far taken up the offer of a booster.
In Northamptonshire, just over 100,000 have had boosters since the rollout begin in late September with around 30,000 of those done in the last three weeks as more people have come forward.
Recent findings from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) showed protection from the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab falls from 65 percent up to three months after a second dose to 45 percent after six months while protection against hospitalisation falls from 95 percent to 75 percent.
Chris Pallot, director of Northamptonshire’s vaccination programme, said: “This change to the booking system is welcome news for the county as we approach a challenging winter.
"It’s important we make it as easy as possible for the people of Northamptonshire to access their jabs.
“The booster vaccination provides further powerful protection against severe illness with Covid-19. If you’ve been invited, then getting your jab is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others."
Drop-in sessions and bookable appointments also continue to be available for anyone over 16 yet to get a first or second dose — at least eight weeks after the first — with selected drop-in sessions also open to 12- to 15-year-olds.
Mr Pallot added: “Winter is fast approaching and we know it will be a challenging time.
"I urge everyone who has been called for a jab to go and get it as soon as you can. It’s the best defence we have against Covid-19.
"We must do all we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities – we can do this if we all take action and get the protection we so urgently need.”
Nearly 1.1 million first and second doses have so far been delivered in the county, although nearly a quarter of those who can have a jab have yet to receive one.
In Northampton and Corby, that figure remains stubbornly lower with three in ten people not having had a jab.