Booster drive ‘may be widened to all over-18s’ in battle against Omicron Covid variant


The Prime Minister said he would be asking the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to consider giving boosters to “as wide a group as possible as well as reducing the gap” between second and third doses

A woman receives her Covid-19 vaccination booster jab in London
A woman receives her Covid-19 vaccination booster jab in London

Boris Johnson has announced the UK’s booster jab campaign will be given a “boost” in a bid to tackle the feared Omicron variant.

The Prime Minister said he would be asking the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to consider giving boosters to “as wide a group as possible as well as reducing the gap” between second and third doses.

Presently, a period of at least six months is left between administering the second Covid jab and the booster.

The third jab is also only currently offered to people over the age of 40, people over 16 with a health condition or frontline workers.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference
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Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, added that the JCVI will now need to decide whether to extend the booster vaccine down to adults age 18.

He added that is “inevitable” the Omicron variant will spread across the world over the next few days.

But he said while it is clear the new strain is highly transmissible, it is not yet clear how effective the vaccine will be as protection against it – but said those who are vaccinated or receive the booster jab will be less likely to become seriously ill.

Nottingham (pictured) was found to have first case of new Covid variant
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Mr Johnson also announced on Saturday that mask rules will be mandatory in shops and on public transport, Omicron contacts will have to self-isolate and new arrivals will have to quarantine until they test negative for coronavirus.

The press conference was hastily arranged after infections were identified in Nottingham and Brentwood in Essex.

In an attempt to slow the spread, the Prime Minister announced “temporary and precautionary” measures to be reviewed in three weeks.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed the cases, which are both believed to be connected and linked to travel to southern Africa, after genomic sequencing overnight.

International passengers walk through the arrivals area at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport
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The individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious

Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will face travel restrictions from Sunday, when they will join South Africa and five other neighbouring nations on England’s red list.

Mr Johnson said: “We need to take targeted and proportionate measures now as a precaution while we find out more.

“First we need to slow down the seeding of the variant in this country, we need to buy time for our scientists to understand exactly what we’re dealing with, and for us to get more people vaccinated, and above all to get more people boosted.”

But the Prime Minister said border measures can “only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together”, so all contacts with a suspected case of the new variant will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

“We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport,” Mr Johnson said.

While the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron is currently unclear, Mr Johnson said there are “good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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