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Vaccine expiry dates are to be extended as part of efforts to use a glut of millions of jabs, with eight million people yet to come forward for boosters.

Regulators have agreed a two-week extension for thousands of Pfizer doses. Record numbers of walk-in sites are to open this week, with people again being urged to “grab a jab”.

On Monday, NHS officials said 8.2 million people are now overdue a booster, with the take-up of third jabs falling significantly in recent weeks.

In the run-up to Christmas, daily boosters reached a high of more than 800,000 – but that has declined sharply, with an average of 116,000 doses a day administered in the seven days to Jan 13.

A memo sent to staff in the NHS Covid vaccination programme last week, seen by Health Service Journal, warns of “a quantity of vaccine in the system, which was released in December to support the booster campaign, that will potentially reach its expiry date within the next couple of weeks before it can be fully used”.

Centres were urged to prioritise use of such stocks, with NHS officials writing to inform them that regulators have agreed to extend the expiry date of the relevant batches for an extra 14 days.

Officials said the change would enable more patients to “access these critical and life-saving vaccines over the coming days”, urging centres to use stocks that are close to their expiry date first.    

How many people have been vaccinated?

On Tuesday, NHS chiefs will again urge those eligible for boosters to come forward, with 1,800 walk-in sites open this week.

In the last month, more than four million people in England have tested positive for Covid, meaning they have to wait 28 days for a vaccine. Officials said on Tuesday that anyone eligible for a booster who tested positive before Dec 20 should now come forward.

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and the deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “We know that more than seven million people are overdue their booster by at least four weeks.

“While many of these people may have had Covid, it is still absolutely crucial that people get their booster after those 28 days have lapsed in order to increase protection from reinfection and the dangers of long Covid. 

“I’d urge anyone yet to come forward for their booster, or their first or second dose, to check where their nearest site is online and get protected now.”

The NHS is also inviting eligible 16 and 17-year-olds to get boosters as well as those aged between 12 and 15 who are considered at extra risk.

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