ALL adults will be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine in the coming months after the Government’s scientific advisers called for the rollout to be sped up to stop a deadly wave of the Omicron variant hitting the UK reports The Independent.
The gap between the second and third dose is being cut from six months to just three in a move designed to ensure the new strain does not take hold in Britain before the most vulnerable people have been boosted. It will see the booster jab offered to another 25 million Britons.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also said for the first time that children aged 12 to 15 should get a second vaccine dose, having previously been offered just one.
nd people who are seriously immunosuppressed and who have already had three doses of the jab should be offered a fourth dose as a booster, the JCVI said.
At a press conference in Downing Street this afternoon, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that the emergence of the Omicron variant was “not all doom and gloom” as the vaccines should not be powerless against the strain.
He said that if there is an impact on vaccine effectiveness, the biggest effect would be on likelihood of infection rather than severe disease.
Professor Van-Tam said the arrival of the Omicron variant has caused “heightened concern” and that was currently a “high degree of uncertainty” about the strain. He urged people not to panic.
“There are far more things we don’t know yet than things we do know,” he said, adding that those gaps in scientific knowledge would be filled “very rapidly” over the next three weeks as experts across the world work around the clock.
It is not yet known when under-40s will be able to book a booster, which will be either a Pfizer or Moderna dose. The NHS is expected to limit access to older groups for the time being to ensure that those most at risk are prioritised.
Anyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first and second doses for medical reasons is advised to get the same jab for their booster.
Downing Street is adamant that unlike during the initial vaccine rollout, there is no national shortage of jabs. But it is unclear what the health service’s maximum capacity will be, given the increased number of people eligible.
Wei Shen Lim of the JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant. This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months. If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”
The initial six-month gap was chosen because it was thought it would maximise the long-term protection afforded by the jabs.
However, Government scientists now believe the priority must be increasing the number of people who have had their third dose by the time that Omicron becomes dominant in the UK – likely to happen some time in the New Year.