Boris Johnson set the new target for the booster programme amid fears over the spread of the Omicron variant
Boris Johnson has vowed to offer everyone eligible a booster by the end of January as the Government scrambles to see off the threat of the Omicron variant.
The Prime Minister said third doses would be handed out in priority order – and said people should wait until they are called to book their booster.
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “The target that we’ve set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January.
“As with the first jabs we’ll be working through people by age group going down in five-year bands, because it’s vital the older and more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”
He added: “We’re going to be throwing everything at it in order to ensure that everyone eligible is offered that booster, as I say, in just over two months.”
At least 400 military personnel will be drafted in to help the NHS with the jabs rollout, Mr Johnson said.
Vaccination sites will increase their capacity, with temporary centres “popping up like Christmas trees”.
Mr Johnson’s new target will force NHS chiefs to ramp up the speed of booster jabs significantly.
Some 46.3 million people have had a second dose so far, while 17.9million have had a booster.
But this leaves roughly 28.4 millon people who still need a booster by the end of January.
With nine weeks to go, that means the NHS would have to average more than 3.1million boosters a week – or more than 3.5million if it took a week off over Christmas.
Currently there is an average of around 2.6million doses per week.
Mr Johnson said he understood the “sense of exhaustion” people felt about the prospect of another wave – but said the UK was in a much better position.
He said: “What we’re doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures while our scientists crack the Omicron code.
“And while we get the added protection of those boosters into the arms of those who need them most.”
The PM said he would be getting his own booster on Thursday and called for everyone to sign up to “another great British vaccination effort”.
Some 18 million booster doses have been delivered across the UK – and the daily number of jabs has risen by a third since the start of this month after a sluggish start.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said people should get vaccinated to “give ourselves the best chance of a Christmas with our loved ones”.
Mr Javid told a press conference: “What we’re seeing recently has brought back memories of the strain of the last winter.
“But although we can’t say with certainty what lies ahead, we have one huge advantage that we didn’t have back then: our vaccination programme, which has already done so much to keep this virus at bay.
“But these defences will only keep us safe if we use them.”
Eight new cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed, bringing the total number of known infections in England to 13, the UK Health Security Agency said.
Separately, Nicola Sturgeon said there were nine cases of the new strain in Scotland all linked to a single private event.
MPs debated further restrictions in Parliament after the PM imposed tougher rules on mask use, foreign travel and isolation in response to the Omicron variant.
The new Covid regulations passed in the Commons by 434 votes to 23.
Ministers are scrambling to buy time for scientists, who are working round the clock to understand the new variant.
Fears have been raised that existing vaccines could be less effective against Omicron – but experts need time to test whether this is really the case.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.