Covid: Booster offer for all adults in England by end of January

bbc– Booster jabs will be offered to everyone in England who is eligible by the end of January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

All adults will be offered a booster jab three months after their second dose of the vaccine.

Mr Johnson said jabs would be prioritised according to age, with the NHS working down the list in five-year bands as was done previously.

Almost 18 million people in the UK have already had a booster jab.

Mr Johnson said vaccines will be given at 1,500 community pharmacy sites and extra hospital hubs in England, with 400 military personnel on-hand to help the NHS alongside “the fantastic jabs army of volunteers”.

“There’ll be temporary vaccination centres popping up like Christmas trees,” he said at a Downing Street press conference.

He also urged people to wait to be contacted by the health service before booking their booster, saying: “Even if you have had your second jab over three months ago and you are now eligible, please don’t try and book until the NHS says it is your turn.”

  • When can I get my booster jab?
  • What Covid rules are being toughened?
  • Where do I have to wear a mask now?

Asked whether people should cancel Christmas parties and nativity plays, Mr Johnson said: “We don’t want people to cancel such events and we think that overwhelmingly the best thing for kids is to be in schools.”

He said instead, they were taking a “balanced and proportionate” approach, and while he thought it “extremely unlikely” that another lockdown would be required, he was ruling nothing out.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said getting vaccinated would “give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones”.

The booster campaign was ramped up over fears of the Omicron variant, which may be more infectious.

A total of 22 cases of the new variant have so far been confirmed in the UK – 13 in England and nine in Scotland.

“I know the frustration that we all feel with this Omicron variant, the sense of exhaustion that we could be going through all this all over again,” Mr Johnson said.

“But today… that’s the wrong thing to feel because today our position is and always will be immeasurably better than it was a year ago.”

The end of January target is ambitious, but certainly achievable.

Crucially there is plentiful supply of vaccines – the challenge is increasing the rate at which the NHS can give jabs.

Currently just over two million booster doses a week are being given in England. At that rate it would take until the start of spring to vaccinate all eligible adults.

The challenge therefore is to get up to the levels of vaccination seen in the spring when around four million doses a week were being administered.

Some of the infrastructure that was in place in those early days has been dismantled. Many GPs and their teams have returned to their day jobs. A third of the mass vaccination centres have closed.

Pharmacies have stepped in to offer more jabs, but they are constrained in how many they can do by lack of staff.

Extra support for them will be vital. So will the hospital vaccination sites – there’s more than 200 of them but only 30 currently vaccinate members of the public.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said she was aiming to free up capacity to allow hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies to give more booster jabs.

She said NHS staff were working at “breakneck speed” to expand the vaccine programme, which was already at its “most complex phase” and now faced the biggest change to eligibility so far.

In other developments:

  • Face masks must now be worn in shops and public transport in England
  • All nine of Scotland’s Omicron cases have been linked to a single event on 20 November – days before the variant was officially reported by South Africa
  • Wales’ health minister has said people should take the “threat” of socialising indoors with others at Christmas seriously
  • Stock markets around the world fell after the boss of Moderna cast doubts on the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron
  • Omicron was present in Europe earlier than previously thought with a case identified in the Netherlands on 19 November, officials have said
  • MPs overwhelmingly endorsed the new regulations on face masks in England, with 434 voting in favour and 23 against.

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