There is confusion over the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme after over 50s were urged to book despite the NHS website saying they must have an invite.
Health minister Edward Argar told Sky News the government was changing the advice so anyone who had their second COVID-19 jab “six months and one week ago” should go onto the NHS website or call 119 and book their booster jab, even if they have not had an invite.
However, the website says only eligible people who have been contacted by the NHS can book.
People aged 50 and over, and those aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk from COVID-19, who had their jab at least six months ago are meant to be receiving invites.
But many eligible people have reported not getting an invite, while others who have got one said they have been told to call their local health centres and have struggled to get through.
Asked about problems with booster uptake, Mr Argar told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “We’ve got the capacity to do it, we’ve got the vaccine, over 2,500 venues where people can be jabbed across the country.
“Part of it is encouraging people to take up the jab and we’ve now made a change.
“It’s not just about waiting to be invited, if you get to the six month plus one week get on the national booking system and book yourself in.”
On Wednesday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to imply people were simply not taking up the booster offer.
He told a news conference: “If we want to secure these freedoms for the long-term than the best thing we can do is come forward once again when that moment comes.
“After the decisive steps that we’ve taken this year, none of us want to go backwards now.
“If we all play our part, then we can give ourselves the best possible chance in this race, get through this winter, and enjoy Christmas with our loved ones.”
The NHS Confederation and the British Medical Association (BMA) has called on the government to implement Plan B now, with BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul claiming the government has “taken its foot off the brake”.
But Mr Javid said plan B – mandatory vaccine passports, face coverings and work from home advice – will not be implemented yet but the government will “be staying vigilant”.
He also warned of a “narrowing gap” between the vaccine preventing hospital admissions and deaths as cases rise.
And he suggested people should meet outdoors where possible, wear masks in crowded areas and make more use of lateral flow tests.
On Wednesday, 49,139 cases were reported – a 17% rise in a week – and Mr Javid said that could reach 100,000 a day.