Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that Covid-19 booster jabs will be offered to all adults by the end of January 2022.
All over-18s will be offered the booster three months after having received their second dose. As was the case previously, jabs will be allocated on an age-basis with the NHS working down five-year age bands in descending order.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference on Tuesday, Johnson said that the UK would “throw everything” at stopping the latest Covid variant, which has been dubbed Omicron.
Fears over Omicron’s potential to be more infectious have seen the government re-introduce mandatory mask wearing in shops and on public transport, as well as implementing certain international travel restrictions including a PCR test and self-isolation period for arrivals.
The wearing of face masks has also been made compulsory in hairdressers, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, takeaways, estate agents, solicitors, loan providers, veterinary clinics and in taxis, private hire vehicles and driving instruction cars or vans.
Meanwhile, 1,500 community pharmacy sites will be set up to help with the booster jab rollout and 400 military personnel have been drafted in to help with the effort.
The PM said: “There'll be temporary vaccination centres popping up like Christmas trees and we'll deploy at least 400 military personnel to assist the efforts of our NHS, alongside of course the fantastic jabs army of volunteers.”
He also reminded members of the public to wait to be contacted by the NHS before coming forward for the booster, even if three months had passed since their second dose.
Speaking alongside the prime minister, health secretary Sajid Javid said that he had “no doubt” of the NHS’ ability to rise to the challenge of the new booster campaign and deliver vaccinations quickly, but reminded the public that they had “a part to play” and called on those eligible to “step up and get protected” when called upon.
Around 18 million people in the UK have already received the booster jab, and Johnson told reporters that he would be receiving his later in the week, doubling down on his longstanding statement that vaccines will provide the best line of defence against Covid during the winter.
He said: “I know the frustration that we all feel with this Omicron variant, the sense of exhaustion that we could be going through all over again. But today, that's the wrong thing to feel because our position is and always will be immeasurably better than it was a year ago.
“What we're doing is taking some precautionary, proportionate measures while our scientists crack the Omicron code and while we get the added protection of those boosters into those who need them most.
“We've done it before; we're going to do it again - let's not give this virus a second chance.”
Addressing why the government had stopped short of reintroducing mandatory mask-wearing in hospitality settings and ordering people to work from home, the prime minister said that the government was taking a “balanced and proportionate” approach to the threat of the new variant.
He also talked down comments from the UK Health Security Agency’s Dr Jenny Harries, who suggested that individuals should minimise their social interactions in the run-up to Christmas.
Johnson said that there was “no need to change the overall guidance” at the present time and that the government was focusing its attention on “tough measures at the borders” to prevent Omicron taking a hold in the UK.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons