Tens of millions of Brits have become eligible for a Covid booster vaccine to tackle to Omicron variant – so when will you get yours? Here’s everything we know now Boris Johnson has set a January 31 target
Tens of millions of Brits have become eligible for Covid booster vaccines this week in a bid to fight the Omicron variant.
That means the NHS will have to dramatically ramp up the speech at which it gives out the vital third jabs.
Today Boris Johnsonset a target of offering a booster to all those eligible “by the end of January”.
That’s more than 28million boosters in just nine weeks.
“The best chance” of a normal Christmas with our loved ones is to “roll up our sleeves”, Sajid Javid told the press conference.
It’s hard-pressed NHS staff who have to roll their sleeves most of all – with troops also being called in to help.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest announcements.
Who is eligible for a booster?
All adults in the UK are now eligible for a Covid booster vaccine – Pfizer or Moderna.
Previously all over-40s and people with certain health conditions were being offered a third dose.
On Monday that was extended to all over-18s following a rapid review by the JCVI. This was to give the population further protection in the face of the Omicron variant. The question is now how it’s delivered.
What is the gap between doses?
At the same time, the JCVI halved the minimum gap between second and third doses from six months to three months.
While immunity is said to be better with a six-month gap, the JCVI weighed that up against the risks of waiting too long with a new variant.
So, can I get a booster jab now?
No, not necessarily.
Taken together, the two changes suddenly made tens of millions of people eligible for a booster jab overnight.
That means there is not enough capacity for everyone to get their jab straight away and they must book in a prioritised way.
Under-40s can’t book in yet because the UK Health Security Agency is still updating a Patient Group Directive, Green Book and National Protocol. This is expected to change in the coming days, though the NHS has not set a firm timetable.
Boris Johnson said: “Even if you have had your second jab over three months ago and you are now eligible, please don’t try and book until the NHS says it is your turn.”
What order will people be offered a booster?
Boris Johnson confirmed: “As with the first jabs, we will be working through people by age group going down in five-year bands.
“It is vital that the older and the more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”
That means those aged 35-39 will be offered the booster, followed by 30-34, then 25-29, 20-24 and under-20. In practice the booking system was known to open up to one year group at a time earlier this year.
Those already eligible at the top of the list were people in residential care homes; over-40s; frontline health and care workers; and under-50s with under-40s with underlying health conditions; and adults who share a household with immunosuppressed people.
How will the NHS ramp up capacity?
Boris Johnson said England will have more than 1,500 community pharmacy sites, “all of” which will increase capacity.
Shut-down “hospital hubs” will be reactivated and temporary vaccination centres will be “popping up like Christmas trees”, he claimed.
As with the first rollout, troops will help. “We will deploy at least 400 military personnel to assist the efforts of our NHS”, the PM said.
NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard said mobile vaccination units would do some of the work for hard-to-reach communities.
But she added: “It can’t happen overnight, particularly given the other pressures facing NHS staff who are working extremely hard”.
Is the January 31 target achievable?
The new target announced by Boris Johnson will force NHS chiefs to hugely ramp up the speed of booster jabs.
Overall 46.3million people have had a second dose while 17.9million have had a booster or third dose.
That leaves 28.4millon 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.