Vaccines WILL protect from Omicron but we need another 42,000 volunteers to help fight cruel virus

A YEAR ago today the NHS made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a Pfizer jab, outside a clinical trial, launching the first national Covid vaccination programme.

That jab, delivered by matron May Parsons in Coventry’s University Hospital was watched around the globe, a moment of hope for us all after months of fear.

Since then, the NHS Covid vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in our 73-year history, has delivered almost 100million life-saving jabs.

It has prevented at least 261,500 hospital admissions and it has saved at least 127,500 lives. Its impact can also be seen in our everyday lives.

We have been able to get back to doing things we love, whether it is visiting family and friends, going to the pub or watching live football. The Covid vaccination programme has been designed and delivered by NHS staff.

But we could never have rolled it out as quickly and successfully without the incredible support from volunteers who have so generously given up their time.

So I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to The Sun for acting as a recruiting sergeant for the Jabs Army volunteers and all those readers who answered the call.

You have played a vital part in the programme and the whole nation is indebted to you. In all, almost 120,000 volunteers have stepped up and taken part, giving a remarkable 1.9million hours of their time over the past 12 months.

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From marshalling the car parks to sitting with those who have just had a jab, what may seem like small acts add up to something spectacular — a team effort to save the country from this cruel virus.

After months of progress, the arrival of the Omicron variant has naturally worried many people. NHS staff are determined to protect as many people as possible as we move into winter.

There is much about this mutation of the virus that we still do not know but most experts believe that, even if our existing vaccines prove less effective, they will still provide protection.

The importance of vaccination becomes even clearer when we look at the relationship between those admitted to hospital critical care units with Covid and those who have not had the jab.

🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news

Around one in four critical care patients have been admitted because of Covid infection, and, according to the most recently available data, almost three-quarters of ICU patients with the virus are unvaccinated.

So NHS staff, who have responded so magnificently throughout the pandemic, are now redoubling their efforts to deliver top-up jabs.

But we once again need the help of the public and the support of Sun readers and the formidable Jabs Army.

As we accelerate the latest — and most complex — phase of the Covid vaccine programme, the NHS is drawing on all the support we can muster.

Today kicks off our renewed recruitment drive for 10,000 paid vaccinators and qualified healthcare support workers, who will be offered up to £120 per day.

These new recruits will be coming on board over the coming weeks to deliver first, second and third doses and boosters.

We are continuing to work with our colleagues at the Royal Voluntary Service to recruit 42,000 more volunteers as stewards, vaccinators and support workers.

INCREDIBLE SUPPORT

And of course, we want to see the unwavering support from the Jabs Army continue.

For anyone able to help, please do apply or volunteer — you can help us to protect more people and save more lives.

Thanks to the success of the NHS vaccination programme, many of the large venues that turned into jab centres early in the campaign have returned to their normal use as football grounds or shopping centres.

But the majority of jabs have always been delivered by primary care teams, particularly GP practices, at smaller sites.

So this next phase is more about “little ships” rather than supertankers. We already have almost 3,000 Covid vaccine sites available across the country.

And to help make it even quicker and easier to get a jab, mobile units will be springing up, allowing people to get protected on their doorsteps.

Seven million more Brits will be able to book a booster from today as ministers have cut the gap between second and third doses from six to three months.

NATIONAL MISSION

It means all over-40s who had their second jab earlier than October 8 can now nab a vaccine appointment via the national booking service.

And boosters should be offered to all adults by the end of January in a bid to tackle the Omicron variant.

As we continue to vaccinate those most at risk of the virus, we must ask the public to please not contact the NHS. We will contact you when it is your turn to come forward.

And remember, it is never too late to get a first or second jab if you haven’t already.

On behalf of NHS staff I want to thank the Sun readers who have taken up the offer and helped us with this national mission, and urge everyone to keep up their enthusiasm for this programme by accepting the invite for each of the jabs available to you, when you’re invited.




HOW TO JOIN

OUR brilliant Jabs Army needs YOU to make the booster vaccine rollout a success. We need to recruit 25,000 extra volunteers at 1,500 vaccine centres around the country.

It could not be easier to join the Jabs Army. If you are one of the 70,000 Sun readers who have done shifts and are already registered, just click on to your GoodSAM app.

If you have never volunteered before, go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk. Or use the QR code here.

Shifts of three or four hours are organised for the NHS by the Royal Voluntary Service charity.

Your expenses will be covered. No experience or qualifications are required. All you need is a friendly face and bags of enthusiasm.

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