Booster jabs will be offered to everyone over 18 in England from this week, the PM has announced, as he declared an “Omicron emergency”. “No one should be in any doubt, there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming,” Boris Johnson said in a TV statement on Sunday evening.
A new target has been set to give boosters to all adults who want one by the end of the month, he said.
Some medical appointments will also be postponed to focus on boosters.
Mr Johnson gave his update on Sunday evening, just hours after the UK’s Covid alert level was raised to four due to the spread of the new Omicron virus variant.
Level four means a high or rising level of transmission – the last time the UK was at this level was in May.
People have been told to work from home from Monday “if they can”, as part of the UK government’s introduction of Plan B measures.
“I’m afraid we’re now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant Omicron,” said Mr Johnson.
“It is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need. But the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose, a booster dose, we can all bring our level of protection back up.”
He added: “At this point our scientists cannot say that Omicron is less severe.
“And even if that proved to be true, we already know it is so much more transmissible that a wave of Omicron through a population that was not boosted would risk a level of hospitalisation that could overwhelm our NHS and lead sadly to very many deaths.”
The new booster target means people aged 18 and over in England will be able to get their third jabs from this week – as long as it has been three months since their second dose.
People aged 30 and over can already book an appointment in advance using the online service from two months after their second dose and over-18s in this position will be able to book from Wednesday.
Some walk-in appointments will be available from Monday for eligible over-18s, depending on location.
Scotland is also setting the same target and aiming to offer all adults a booster by the end of the year, and Northern Ireland said it is stepping up its rollout and hopes to get as many people as possible boosted by then.
But Mr Johnson said in order to reach the new jab target, certain other medical appointments would need to be postponed to the New Year. Some GPs are already allowed to postpone routine health checks to make space for vaccinations.
The prime minister also said:
42 teams from the military would be deployed across every region to help the effort
extra vaccine sites and mobile units would be set up across England
opening hours of clinics would be extended with more appointments
thousands more volunteer vaccinators would be trained
the UK government would also give extra support to speed up vaccinations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Early data shows that getting a third booster dose prevents about 75% of people getting any Covid symptoms from Omicron.
More than half a million booster jabs and third doses were given in the UK on Saturday – the second day that has happened since the booster rollout began. BBC / Telegraph