Booster COVID-19 vaccines increase the body's immune response and remain the best single defence against the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday as he confirmed an expansion of the country's top-up booster vaccination programme.
Addressing a Downing Street press conference, Johnson set an end of January 2022 target for all adults aged over 18 now eligible for a booster vaccine to be offered a top-up dose.
Flanked by his Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, and National Health Service (NHS) England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard, the UK PM said additional vaccination pop-up centres and 400 military personnel will be deployed to help deliver the expanded booster programme.
"We are going to throw everything at it, to ensure that everyone eligible for that booster will be vaccinated within two months," said Johnson.
“Vaccination is our best single defence against Omicron... If you're boosted, your immune response will be stronger," he said.
"It's time for another great British vaccination effort. We've done it before and we're going to do it again – and let's not give this virus a second chance," he added.
Johnson was asked by reporters why new measures, such as compulsory face coverings in indoor settings and PCR tests for travellers entering the UK which came in force from Tuesday, were not being taken further to the government's so-called Plan B – which would involve work from home directions and calls to cancel mass gatherings and socialising.
"What we're doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures while our scientists crack the Omicron code. And while we get the added protection of those boosters into the arms of those who need them most,” said Boris Johnson, who also revealed that he is scheduled to get his third top-up COVID-19 booster dose on Thursday.
Millions more people in the UK will now become eligible for a third booster dose after the government accepted the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice to extend boosters from over-40s to everyone aged 18 and over. Additionally, the gap between a second COVID vaccine dose and a booster dose will be reduced to three months.
"If you are not already eligible, please do not contact the NHS," said Pritchard, stressing that those eligible will be contacted directly by the health service when they can access their dose.
“The NHS and the entire country is living with a once in a generation event," she said, highlighting that the NHS will be recruiting around 10,000 paid vaccinating roles and also volunteers as the booster vaccination rollout expands in the coming weeks.
In his intervention, Sajid Javid warned that there is still a lot still unknown about Omicron and therefore the government's strategy is to "buy the time we need" to assess the new variant while strengthening defences via antivirals and booster vaccines.
"What we're seeing recently has brought back memories of the strain [Delta] of the last winter. But although we can't say with certainty what lies ahead, we have one huge advantage that we didn't have back then: our vaccination programme, which has already done so much to keep this virus at bay," said Javid.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)