Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all eligible adults in England will have the chance to get their coronavirus booster vaccine before the end of the year – moving the target forward from the end of January.
Mr Johnson addressed the nation in a pre-recorded broadcast this evening, after it was announced that the UK has moved to COVID Alert Level 4.
Alert Level 4 on the UK’s COVID Alerts System means that transmission of COVID-19 is high or rising exponentially. The move was recommended by the four Chief Medical Officers and comes as cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been growing across the country.
Omicron is feared to be more transmissible than previous variants of COVID-19, and is expected to be the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the UK within days.
Mr Johnson said the launch of the “Omicron Emergency Booster National Mission” will see military planning teams brought in across the UK to support additional vaccination sites, while other clinics will having their opening hours extended.
Some other appointments may be cancelled in order to help meet the target of getting all eligible adults boosted by the end of the month.
All adults over the age of 18 that had their second jab at least 3 months ago will be eligible for a third, booster jab, against COVID-19. Booster vaccinations can be booked online through the NHS or by phoning 119.
Speaking during his pre-recorded message on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson said;
“I am afraid we are now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant, Omicron, and we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe”
Mr Johnson added;
“No-one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming, and I’m afraid it is 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”
In a statement on Sunday evening, First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford urged people to “make having your booster a priority”, adding, “it will be one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against coronavirus and this new variant”.
UK Prime Minister Johnson has come under significant pressure in recent days over allegations of numerous COVID-19 rule breaches by himself and senior government staff last Christmas. Reports have suggested that a growing number of questions are being asked about the Prime Minister’s leadership, two years on from when he led the Conservatives to a landslide victory in the 2019 General Election.
On Sunday, Mr Johnson also faced notable criticism on social media for not holding a live press conference with questions from journalists, instead making a pre-recorded message. Pre-recorded coronavirus statements by the Prime Minister have generally been rare during the pandemic, except when announcing lockdown measures – which did not take place this evening.
New restrictions were announced earlier in the week and are set to come into force in the coming days – including guidance for people to work from home from Monday wherever possible.
Cases of COVID-19 in the UK are up by 11.9% in the last seven days, compared to the previous seven day period. The number of COVID-19 related deaths has only risen very slightly by 0.5% in the last 7 days, according to government figures