More than a million Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered in one month by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as part of a drive to protect vulnerable citizens.

The NHS claims that 1.16 million vaccinations have been provided to what are classified as ‘at risk’ individuals, after sending out around 1.5 million invitations. At-risk groups constitute the elderly, the very young and the immunocompromised.

The autumn vaccine program is intended both as a means of preventing the spread of infection, but also intended to relieve winter pressures on hospitals and the wider health service ahead of winter and widespread industrial strike action.

At the same time, 2.8 million people (2,808,234) have also received their flu jabs since the start of the autumn campaign on 11 September. The scheme was brought in ahead of its original intended date in response to the emergence of a new strain of Covid-19 found in England, BA.2.86.

Chief delivery officer for NHS England, Steve Russell, said: “It is a huge feat that we are off to such a flying start with our Covid and flu vaccination programme – more than one million people have received their Covid jab since we opened up bookings last week, and hundreds of thousands more are booked in to receive theirs this week.

“The NHS is once again pulling out all the stops to deliver lifesaving vaccinations, with staff working hard across more vaccine sites than ever before to ensure as many eligible people as possible receive vital protection ahead of the winter months.”

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As part of the drive, NHS teams were sent to 4,616 care homes so far – more than a quarter of all care homes in the UK. At the same time, 1.2 million texts and emails were sent to parents of 2 and 3-year-olds inviting them to get their flu jab, alongside a reminder to get an MMR vaccination.

The NHS has said that there were more than 1,000 patients in hospitals with Covid-19 on July 20, but by the end of August, that figure had risen to over 2,500. The latest figures for September 17 show more than 2,800 patients in hospitals had Covid-19.

Gavin Dabrera, deputy director for Covid-19 vaccines and epidemiology at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We know that respiratory infectious diseases like Covid-19 are seen frequently during the winter season, with older age groups and those with underlying health conditions at greatest risk.

“These early uptake figures are encouraging but, as we head into the coming months, it remains important that everyone eligible for the vaccine comes forward. This will provide those vulnerable with the greatest possible protection against the virus.”