LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday evening that the country’s coronavirus vaccine booster program would be accelerated to counter what he called a ‘tidal wave’ of cases of the spreading Omicron variant fast.
Mr Johnson said the UK government will now aim to offer all eligible adults a booster shot by the end of this year, a month ahead of the target it set for itself on November 30. deliver those millions of injections by the end of January.
“No one should have the slightest doubt: there is an Omicron tidal wave ahead,” Mr Johnson said in a videotaped address, “and I fear it is now clear that two doses vaccine is simply not enough to provide the level of protection we all need.
Mr Johnson told Sky News on Monday that at least one person with the Omicron variant has died, the first in Britain. Health secretary Sajid Javid told the network about 10 people have been hospitalized with Omicron so far.
Mr Johnson, who has come under extreme pressure for days after it was revealed his aides threw a holiday party in violation of coronavirus restrictions last year, did not announce any major new social distancing restrictions. But the government raised the Covid alert level from three to four – its second highest level – amid signs that Omicron was rapidly spreading across the country.
Raising the alert level, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said in a statement that “early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic diseases of Omicron is reduced ”.
The first real-world study on how vaccines resist the Omicron variant, released by UK government scientists on Friday, indicated a significant drop in protection, although the booster doses provided considerable defense.
As part of what Mr Johnson has called “Omicron Emergency Boost,” the government will offer booster shots to adults 18 and older by New Year’s Day. Adults are eligible for a booster injection three months after their second injection. Britain has distributed 23.1 million booster doses, reaching 40.2% of people aged 12 and over.
To meet the new target, Mr Johnson said the National Health Service would have to postpone some other medical procedures by the end of the year. He said the government would deploy 42 military planning units to help open vaccination centers and additional mobile units.
“If we don’t do it now, the Omicron wave could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like losing cancer appointments, would be even bigger next year,” Mr. Johnson. “To hit the pace we need, we’ll need to match the NHS best vaccination day yet – then beat it day in and day out. “
“It will take an extraordinary effort,” he added.
The address filmed seemed calculated in part to seize the offensive ahead of a politically perilous week in which Mr Johnson will face a difficult vote in Parliament on the Covid restrictions he announced last week, as well as an election to the during which the Conservative Party risks losing a once secure seat.
Mr Johnson faces a potential mutiny from members of his Conservative Party, who have threatened to vote against the new restrictions, which include urging people to work from home, wear face masks in more environments. interiors and to show vaccine certification to enter nightclubs and events with large audiences.
The Prime Minister’s credibility has also been called into question after reports that members of his staff organized Christmas parties at 10 Downing Street, his office and residence, at a time when the public was instructed not to meet friends or family.