British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday evening that the country’s coronavirus vaccine booster program would be accelerated to counter what he called a “tidal wave” of cases from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
Mr Johnson said the British government was now aiming to provide a booster dose to all eligible adults by the end of this year, a month earlier than the target it set on November 30 to fire those millions of shots by the end of January.
“No one should have the slightest doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming, and I fear it is now clear that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to give the level of protection we all need,” Johnson said in a videotaped speech.
Mr Johnson, who was under pressure for several days after revealing that his aides threw a holiday party in violation of coronavirus restrictions last year, has not announced any major new social distancing restrictions. But the government raised the alert level for Covid from three to four – its second highest – amid indications that Omicron was spreading rapidly across the country.
On raising the alert level, chief medical officials in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced in a statement that “early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that the symptomatic vaccine from Omicron has been reduced.”
The first real-world study of how vaccines are resistant to the Omicron variant, which British government scientists published on Friday, indicated a significant reduction in protection, although booster doses provided a significant defense.
Under what Mr Johnson has called an “Omicron Emergency Boost”, the government will provide booster doses for adults 18 and older by New Year’s Day. Adults are eligible for a booster dose three months after the second shot. Britain distributed 23.1 million booster shots, reaching 40.2 per cent of people aged 12 and over.
To reach the new target, Mr Johnson said the NHS should postpone some other medical procedures between now and the end of the year. He said the government will deploy 42 military planning units to help open additional vaccination centers and mobile units.
“If we don’t do it now, the wave of Omicron could be so large that cancellations and disruptions, such as missing cancer appointments, will be even bigger next year,” Johnson said. “To hit the pace we need, we will need to match the best NHS vaccination day to date – and then beat it day in and day out.”
“This will require an extraordinary effort,” he added.
Title recorded on videotape It appeared calculated in part to seize the offensive a politically perilous week ago as Mr Johnson will face a tough vote in Parliament on the Covid restrictions announced last week, as well as an election in which the Conservative Party is in danger of losing a once safe seat.
Mr Johnson is facing a potential rebellion by members of his Conservative Party, who have threatened to vote against the new restrictions, which include urging people to work from home, wearing face masks in more indoor spaces, and showing vaccine certification to enter nightclubs and events with a large audience.
The prime minister’s credibility has also been called into question after reports that members of his staff held Christmas parties in 10 Downing Street, his office and residence, at a time when the public was instructed not to meet with friends or family members.
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