More than six in 10 care home staff in England have not received a booster jab, figures suggest, despite the ramping up of the vaccine rollout as Omicron spreads.
Some 37.6% of staff in care homes for older residents and 33.5% of staff in homes for younger adults had received a booster as of December 19, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
This leaves more than 340,000 staff who have not been recorded as having had their booster, without which they do not have the optimum protection against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked care home staff to come forward as soon as possible.
The proportion of residents who have been boosted is much higher, standing at 82.3% of older residents and 68.7% of younger residents.
Almost all care homes have been visited by booster teams, and the remaining 1% will be visited by Christmas Eve subject to no further Covid-19 outbreaks within those care homes, the Government said.
People are eligible for their booster if they received their second dose at least three months ago, while those who test positive for coronavirus must wait 28 days.
The figures are based on responses from 98.7% of older age care homes, 97.3% of younger age care homes.
NHS England said the percentages for those who have received a booster, therefore, may be underestimated.
There will be some staff whose vaccination status is unknown while there may also be a time lag in some vaccinations being reported, it added.
It comes as new research shows that booster vaccination strongly enhances Covid-19 immunity in care home residents and staff.
Care home residents who received a booster and had not previously contracted coronavirus had a 12.3-fold increase in antibodies following their jab, while the rise was 6.4-fold in staff.
For those previously infected, the boosters led to a 4.1-fold and 3.2-fold increase in antibodies in staff and residents respectively.
The Vivaldi study, published by the University of Birmingham and UCL, examined blood samples from 76 residents and 58 staff, with researchers noting that the boosting effect was “very pronounced” in those who had not previously contracted coronavirus.
They added: “This is encouraging and should provide protection against both the Delta and Omicron variants.”
This week the Government issued a renewed plea for care home staff, domiciliary care workers and unpaid carers to “play their part” and get boosted.
Where possible, NHS England has requested that vaccination centres offer priority access for frontline staff so their queuing time is reduced and it is as easy as possible for them to get the jab.
The NHS England figures show that 24.8% of domiciliary care staff are recorded as having received their booster as of Sunday.
Minister for Care Gillian Keegan said: “Our fantastic social care workforce have shown time and time again during this pandemic the lengths they will go to deliver high-quality care in the most challenging circumstances, showing true dedication and professionalism, and I can’t thank them enough for all their hard work.
“We are calling on them to step up once again to come forward and protect themselves and those around them by getting boosted now, giving those they care for maximum protection over the winter.”