The rollout of the fourth COVID jabs could begin next week following criticism that the timeline planned by the NHS was too slow.
The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) last month recommended additional boosters for people aged 75 and over about six months after their last vaccine.
But the NHS in England has yet to start a fourth rollout, despite the fact that it is now six months since the final rollout began.
In guidance published last month, NHS England told immunization services that the rollout is “expected to begin early April”.
Last week The Telegraph highlighted concerns that the program was progressing too slowly in England, with former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for “more oomph on the fourth jabs”.
JCVI was also understood to be keen to start operations to England as soon as possible.
On Tuesday night a health source said: “We expect the rollout of the next set of boosters to begin as soon as next week in those over 75 and in elderly care homes. We are seeing a rise in cases among the elderly and it is right that we act on this.”
He said the timing was not related to the recent rise in cases, but to ensure the JCVI’s recommendations suggesting a six-month gap in England.
Scotland began its rollout more than a week ago, with all people over 75 being offered jobs 24 weeks after their last booster.
It comes amid rising COVID cases across the UK, with concerns that the pattern may reflect weakened immunity in people who were first to receive a third dose.
The latest figures in England show that only 55.5 per cent of those over 75 have had a booster in the past five months, compared to 68.7 per cent a week earlier.
People in this age group are expected to start receiving texts and letters inviting them for a fourth job as early as next week, with booking systems set to open as early as Monday.
NHS officials have always insisted that people eligible for a fourth dose will receive an invitation six months after their last jab, but said most people in this group will not reach this stage until April.
Cases have increased by 52 percent in the last seven days.
‘No reason to worry’
However, the health secretary has said that such a hike was to be expected.
“We are now open as a country and have a more social mix, but at this point there is nothing in the data that gives us cause for concern,” Sajid Javid told Sky News on Monday.
Meanwhile, there has been a 25 per cent increase in Covid hospital admissions.
More than half of COVID hospital patients are “emergent” cases, meaning they are more likely to reflect infection rates in the community rather than serious illness.