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The Prime Minister called for a “national mission” to give all adults the booster jab by the end of the year. In a dramatic TV address, the Prime Minister called the epidemic a “tidal wave” and brought forward a third-jab deadline by a month.
Health workers and volunteers will try to deliver more than one million doses in each of the next 18 days.
No 10 sources stressed a “Herculean effort” would be needed but Mr Johnson said the new target was necessary to ward off the super variant and stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed.
He warned: “I am afraid we are now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant, Omicron, and we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe.”
His stark message came as the UK Covid alert level was raised from Level 3 to Level 4 after another 1,239 confirmed cases of the variant – a rise of 65 per cent in 24 hours. It takes the total number of UK Omicron cases to 3,137, with the first patients being hospitalised.
Stating Omicron was doubling or tripling every day, Mr Johnson added: “We know from bitter experience how these exponential curves develop.
“No one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming, and I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.”
More than 23 million out of a total 45 million have so far had the booster, meaning more than one million top-up doses need to be delivered every day – more than double the current rate of 500,000.
Moving the adult booster target forward a month, Mr Johnson said: “Today we are launching the Omicron Emergency Boost – a national mission unlike anything we have done before in the vaccination programme – to Get Boosted Now.”
He said everyone eligible in England aged 18 and over can be now jabbed before the New Year.
Mr Johnson added: “To hit the pace we need, we’ll need to match the NHS’s best vaccination day yet – and then beat it day after day.
“This will require an extraordinary effort. But if we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year.”
Addressing heroic frontline health services workers and volunteers, he said: “I must ask you to make another extraordinary effort now, so we can protect you and your colleagues – and above all your patients – from even greater pressures next year.”
The emergency operation will involve 42 military planning teams across each region; additional vaccine sites and mobile units; extended opening hours so clinics can open seven days a week with more appointments early in the morning, evening, and at weekends; and training thousands more volunteer vaccinators.
In England, the booster programme will be available to every adult who has had a second jab at least three months ago.
The NHS Booking System will be open for these younger age groups from Wednesday and some will be able get their booster at walk-in centres from today.
Mr Johnson said: said: “We are a great country. We have the vaccines to protect our people. So let’s do it. Let’s Get Boosted Now…to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We have come so far since those darkest of days at the start of the pandemic.
“So much has been asked of the British people, and time and again you have risen to the challenge.
“So let’s keep our foot on the pedal and get Britain boosted to protect our families, friends and NHS.”
NHS Confederation chief Matthew Taylor said: “The NHS will do everything it can to get even more vaccines into people’s arms so that the public has the maximum possible level of protection.”
Meanwhile, a further 48,854 UK Covid cases were recorded this week an 52 more deaths.
The UK’s chief medical officers said early evidence showed the Omicron variant is spreading much faster than Delta – and vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.
Scientists say without more curbs, the UK is facing a substantial wave of Omicron in January and the number of deaths by April could range from 25,000 to 75,000.
Those over-30 in England and Scotland can book their booster jabs from today and those in Scotland aged 18 to 29 from later in the week.
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