As the threat of Omicron impacting peoples’ Christmases appears to reach new heights, the UK scrambles to administer as many Covid booster jabs as possible by the end of the year – here’s how you can book your booster vaccine
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The UK is once again in a race against Covid as the new Omicron variant sweeps across the country.
The new strain isexpected to surpass Delta as the dominant variant within 48 hours in London.
Scientists believe Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, although no solid conclusions have been drawn yet as to whether or not it is more dangerous than its predecessor.
At the time of writing 10 people in the UK have been admitted to hospital with it, with reports that a patient has died in the UK after testing positive with Omicron.
As it stands, the huge rollout of Covid booster jabs remains the only meaningful tactic for tackling Omicron.
Scotland and Wales are aiming to offer the booster to all people by the end of the year, while Northern Ireland is also ramping up efforts by now offering walk-ins to over 30s.
What has changed in the Covid booster jab roll-out plan?
The original plan laid out that all adults eligible for a booster would be offered one by the end of January, however, the goalposts have now been brought forward, with the aim to now have achieved this by the end of 2021.
Eligible adults include all over-18s who had their second jab at least three months ago.
A joint statement issued by the Chief Medical Officers of the four home nations said: “Transmission of Covid-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by Delta, but the emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.
“Vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced… hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.”
How many jabs a day will be needed for the government to meet the target?
The government is now aiming to jab one million people per day, double the previous target of 500,000 per day and dwarfing the 350,000 per day before that.
Saturdays tend to see the most people going for jabs, with 592,337 getting theirs on Saturday, December 11.
Last week, the most boosters that had been picked up on a weekday was 527,342, meaning there is still a long way to go if the government is aiming to vaccinate over 20 million people in roughly as many days.
How can you get your booster jab?
There are a number of ways to get your booster, however, it may be impacted by your age. While everyone over 18 can head to a walk-in centre, not everyone is able to pre-book.
Read on for the latest advice for each age group.
Over-20s are now able to head to walk-in centres to get their jabs. However, at the time of writing, this age group cannot book online via the NHS website.
There is no guarantee that people heading to walk-in centres will be able to get a jab, but reports of those under 30 getting them are increasingly frequent. People who go to get a jab via walk-in centres, but are turned away, are being encouraged to keep trying.
However, as of Wednesday, December 15, over-18s will also be able to book a jab online.
The rush of young people trying to get jabbed before heading home for Christmas has prompted lengthy queues and issues with booking sites for those eligible.
In a Tweet, the NHS said: “The Covid vaccine booking service is currently facing extremely high demand so is operating a queuing system.
“For users aged 18-29, please be aware that booking opens on Wednesday 15 Dec.
“For all others experiencing waits, we would advise trying again later today or tomorrow.”
Over-30s are now the latest age group able to book their jabs online via the NHS website. The age group was included as part of the Monday, December 13th rule change.
They too can go to walk-in centres, although people eligible to book must have had their second jab only two months beforehand.
All eligible over-40s are now being encouraged to get their booster jabs, either by booking or by heading to a walk-in centre.
Over-50s are also being encouraged to get their boosters as long as they got their second jab at least two months prior.
Key workers, including front-line health or care home workers, are eligible to get their booster by either booking or walking in regardless of their age.
Vulnerable people, those who are the main carer for someone else or who live with people more at risk from the disease – like people with HIV or who have had a transplant – are also eligible to get their booster jabs.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.