Tens of thousands of vaccine volunteers have been praised for giving up about two million hours of their time to help with the rollout of Covid jabs throughout 2021.
A woman who translated crucial health messages into Punjabi to reach more communities is among more than 100,000 people who donated their time to the vaccine effort in the past year.
More than 132m coronavirus jabs were given last year in the largest vaccine campaign in British history. More than 90% of people in the UK over the age of 12 have now had their first dose of a Covid-19 jab and 82.4% have had their second.
After the emergence of the Omicron variant triggered an acceleration of the rollout over the festive season, more than 1.6 million people received their booster dose in the final week of 2021, bringing the total number of boosted adults in the UK to nearly 34 million, including three in four eligible adults in England.
NHS England said volunteers working alongside healthcare staff had particularly helped during the ramped-up supply of jabs and boosters in December.
The health service launched a recruitment drive to speed up the distribution of jabs and so far 17,500 people have registered their interest in paid vaccination roles, NHS England said.
A further 48,000 people have registered as steward volunteers through the NHS Volunteer Responders programme in just over a month, of which more than 10,000 have already deployed.
Working alongside the NHS, St John Ambulance has seen 17,000 people come forward to do shifts as volunteer vaccinators.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the success of the vaccination programme was “astounding and a true reflection of the fantastic work of our NHS and its volunteers. I want to thank each and every one of them”.
NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said the efforts of volunteers would “undoubtedly help to save many more lives”.
She said: “Alongside NHS staff, our selfless volunteers have worked tirelessly to protect the nation – in football stadiums, shopping centres, Christmas markets and countless other vaccination sites up and down the country.
“I want to give my personal thanks to everyone who has given up their time to help us beat record after record – continuing to make the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme the biggest and most successful in health service history.”
Boris Johnson set the target of offering all eligible adults the chance to get their booster jabs by the end of January, but after the emergence of Omicron he brought forward the deadline to the new year.
Millions of people queued at about 3,000 vaccination centres, and on 18 December NHS England administered a record 830,000 jabs in a single day.
Jaz Kaur Bangerh, from Leeds, has been promoting messages about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in ethnic minority communities, including translating information into Punjabi.
“Volunteering for the vaccination programme, I have helped people to fill in forms, guided them to the right place and answered any questions, especially if they were a bit anxious in the early days, when there was a lot of information out there.”
John Hardman, who has volunteered at jab sites in the capital including Wembley stadium and the Science Museum, said he “can’t recommend it [volunteering] enough”.
“There are lots of opportunities to support locally, even if just for a few sessions.”
NHS England said people interested in getting involved can search NHS vaccine team online.