Less than half of people aged 50 and over in Oldham have received an extra dose of the coronavirus vaccine, new figures suggest.

Adults in the age group have been eligible for a top-up dose of the Covid-19 vaccine since mid-September, when the NHS launched its national booster jab campaign.

It comes as UK scientists announce an expansion of the booster programme to all people aged 18 and over, as the first cases of the newly discovered Omicron variant have been confirmed across England and Scotland.

NHS England data, published for the first time, shows 39,111 people aged 50 and over in Oldham had received a booster jab or third vaccine dose by November 21.

That is at least 46 per cent of the age group, based on the number of people on the National Immunisation Management Service.

Booster jabs were available for people in eligible groups who had their second dose at least six months ago, though this has now been halved to at least three months.

Across the North West as a whole, around 53 per cent of over-50s had received a booster jab or third dose by November 21.

Data shows falling levels of protection from symptomatic disease and hospital admission six months after people have had their second jab – particularly among older adults and at-risk groups.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.

“This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months.

“If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”

The figures show that by November 21 in Oldham:

3,296 people aged between 50 and 54 had received a booster jab or third vaccine dose – 19 per cent of the age group

4,066 people aged between 55 and 59 had an extra dose – 25 per cent

As had 4,415 people aged between 60 and 64 – 33 per cent

6,224 people aged between 65 and 69 – 55 per cent

7,803 people aged between 70 and 74 – 73 per cent

6,105 people aged between 75 and 79 – 78 per cent

And 7,202 people aged 80 and over – 75 per cent

The JCVI said that both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines can be given as a booster for adults – with equal preference given to both.

Experts believe the new Omicron variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in stopping people getting infected, though they think vaccines may still protect against severe disease.

However, it could be three more weeks before further details emerge from scientists on how transmissible the variant is, whether it evades vaccine protection and whether it causes more severe disease.