Former vaccine chief will return to NHS role amid concern over booster jabs rollout

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<span>Photograph: Ian Davidson/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Ian Davidson/Alamy

The senior official credited with the early success of the Covid vaccine rollout in England is returning to the NHS to resume her role overseeing the programme, months after leaving to become the head of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street delivery unit.

Emily Lawson is ending her secondment at No 10 to return to NHS England amid concern that the rollout of booster jabs in England is flagging.

Earlier this week Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, told Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, that the rollout needed to be “turbocharged” because numbers were too low, especially with Covid infections rising sharply again.

In a statement first reported by the Health Service Journal, Pritchard said: “It is great news that Emily has agreed to return to lead the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme as our response to the pandemic enters another crucial phase.”

Lawson had joined No 10 to head up the delivery unit set up by the prime minister to try to ensure that government policy commitments in key areas were being turned into action.

On Friday, she said: “The next phase of the vaccination programme is extremely important. We know that the vaccine is helping us to save lives and so we must focus all of our efforts on rolling out the booster campaign to everyone eligible, as well as ensuring that everyone who has not yet had their first jab, including young people, gets the chance to come forward.”

Related: Complacency slowing England’s Covid booster jabs rollout, says NHS leader

Briefings in newspapers attributed to government sources have criticised the NHS for not getting more jabs delivered fast enough. NHS England said this week that more than 4 million people have had a booster jab in just over a month.

Johnson again urged people to come forward for their boosters. In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, he said: “I wanted to just emphasise how important it is to come forward and get your booster jab against Covid, if and when you get the call.”

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