The goal of giving every adult in England a booster shot has been brought forward a month for fear of an “Omicron tidal wave” which could cause “scores of deaths”.
Boris Johnson, in a pre-recorded address to the nation on Sunday evening, said Britain “urgently needs to strengthen our vaccine protection wall” as he sets a new deadline to hit everyone over 18 years into the new year.
He said scientists had found that being fully vaccinated was “just not enough” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus mutation and that without a lightning-fast mass recall campaign, the NHS could be overwhelmed.
The mission to administer millions of injections by December 31 will see 42 military planning teams deployed to each health region, additional vaccination sites and mobile units, clinic opening hours extended to allow people to ‘being bitten 24 hours a day and on weekends, and the training of thousands of other volunteer vaccinators.
The announcement comes as the UK’s Covid Alert Level has been raised to Level 4, from 3, following a rapid increase in the number of registered Omicron cases.
The recommendation was made to ministers by the country’s four chief medical officers and the national medical director of NHS England, on advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
The UK recorded 1,239 more confirmed cases of the Omicron mutation on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,137, a 65% increase from Saturday’s total of 1,898.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the actual number was likely 10 times higher.
Speaking on Sunday, the Prime Minister said: ‘We have already seen the number of hospitalizations double in one week in South Africa and we currently have patients with Omicron here in the UK.
“At this point, our scientists cannot say that Omicron is less severe.
“And even if that were true, we already know that it is so much more transmissible than a wave of Omicron through a population that has not been boosted would risk a level of hospitalization that could overwhelm our NHS and unfortunately lead to many deaths.
“So we have to act now. Today we are launching the Omicron national emergency recall mission, unlike anything we have done before in the immunization program, to be boosted now.
“Two weeks ago, I said we would offer every eligible adult a booster by the end of January.
“Today, in light of this Omicron emergency, I am pushing this goal forward by a whole month.
“Anyone who is eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their recall before the New Year.”
The Prime Minister – whose address was pre-registered, meaning he addressed the nation without being accompanied by his scientific advisers and without answering questions – said the UK government would support decentralized administrations to ” accelerate ”their own third jab deployments.
He revealed the decision to speed up the jab rate would mean some NHS appointments would have to be postponed until the New Year, arguing there would be ‘even bigger’ cancellations if the Omicron wave were allowed to increase.
In a direct appeal to GPs, medics, nurses and others on the NHS frontline who he says have ‘worked incredibly hard’ throughout the pandemic, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have to ask you to make another extraordinary effort now, so that we can protect you and your colleagues, and most importantly, protect your patients from even greater pressures next year.
Any adult over 18 in England who received a second dose of a vaccine at least three months ago will be able to receive their booster from Monday, the Conservative Party leader added.
The NHS reservation system will be open for those under 30 from Wednesday, but ‘in some cases you can enter from tomorrow’.
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This notice was published: 2021-12-12 20:15:37