THE NHS has reached a landmark number of Covid-19 booster vaccinations in the south west. 

Over three million booster vaccinations have now been administered in the region as part of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history. 

Nearly one million people in the south west have received their booster since Monday, December 13.

The south west region covers Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bristol, and the Isles of Scilly.

The programme saw a surge in rollout after the prime minister addressed the nation with a televised statement on Sunday, December 12. 

Boris Johnson described "our battle with the new variant Omicron" as an "emergency", outlined new vaccination targets, and made everyone over 18 eligible for a third jab. 

Hours later, the UK's Covid alert level was raised to four, meaning there is a high or rising level of transmission. 

Discussing the three million jabs milestone, Rachel Pearce, regional director of commissioning and senior responsible officer for the Covid-19 vaccination programme for NHS England, south west, said: "To have expanded our capacity as quickly as we did is a monumental achievement.

"Since the Get Boosted Now campaign launched on Sunday 12 December, we have vaccinated just shy of 900,000 people across the region.

"Vaccination teams across the region pulled out all the stops to ramp up their programmes to ensure people can easily get a booster vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and the wider community."

The NHS has urged people who have not yet been boosted to book their jab as the Omicron variant of coronavirus continues to spread across the country

The health service says there is plenty of booked appointment capacity across the region, and some vaccination centres are now accepting walk-ins.

Dr Julie Yates, lead consultant for screening and immunisation for NHS England and NHS Improvement South West, said: "It has never been more important to get your Covid-19 vaccination.

"Omicron is highly transmissible and the best way to protect yourself and your family and friends is to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

"The reaction to the Get Boosted Now campaign from NHS staff and the public has been fantastic. We have also seen a large increase in the number of people coming forward to receive their first dose.

"So please visit the Grab a Jab website to find your nearest walk-in or book an appointment as soon as possible.

"We need you to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you have an appointment booked but for January, please go to the website rebook an appointment for December or visit a walk in to ensure you get protected sooner."

This morning, a senior UK Health Security Agency official said new data suggesting the Omicron variant may be less likely to lead to serious illness than the Delta variant of coronavirus offers a "glimmer of Christmas hope". 

However, Dr Jenny Harries said it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat."

The agency has estimated someone with Omicron is between 31 per cent and 45 per cent less likely to attend A&E than someone with Delta.

The data also suggests someone with Omicron is between 50 per cent and 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital.

The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, and Dr Harries said it is the "dominant strain now right across the UK". 

She added: "What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences, so it is a very balanced position."

Read more: How do Covid restrictions compare across the UK?

Read more: Johnson urges booster jab take-up as new data suggests Omicron is milder