Bookings For New Covid Booster Programme Will Be Opened In "Next Couple Of Days"
Details of the expanded booster programme, including how people can book their third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, will be confirmed "in the next couple of days," Health Minister Gillian Keegan has said.
Keegan told Sky News the rollout of the booster for over 18s will go in age order, broken down by five-year age brackets, with the first cohort set to receive their invitations imminently.
“We are pretty good at standing up these operations, so we do know what to do," Keegan said.
"We just need to give the NHS time to operationalise as we are more or less doubling the number who are due a booster.”
Boris Johnson is expected to give a press conference later on Tuesday where he will spell out the government's plan to administer 3.5m booster jabs a week as part of efforts to combat the spread of the newly discovered Omricon variant of the virus.
At the moment, around 2.5m are being administered every week.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirmed yesterday that the gap between double vaccination and the booster will be cut from six months to three in a bid to extend immunity to more of the population.
The decision to ramp up the booster programme is part of a package of measures announced by government designed to contain the Omicron variant and give scientists sufficient time to research key questions like its transmissability and how the vaccines perform against it.
As of today, mask wearing is compulsory on public transport and in multiple indoor settings, while all travellers to the UK are required to take a PCR test on their return, and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Additionally, people who come into contact with someone infected by the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, are now required to isolate regardless of their vaccination status.
Asked by Sky News' Kay Burley whether ministers could be "overreacting" to Omicron, Conservative MP Keegan said she'd rather "overreact than underreact at this point" because the government does yet not know what the public health impact of this new variant could be.
The minister added that the government could not say for sure what will happen this Christmas due to the uncertainty surrounding it.
"We very much hope that we have a Christmas this year after having an awful experience last year, and it is unfortunate timing from that perspective," Keegan said.
"Keep your Christmas plans in place but we will have to deal with it as the scientists get more information."
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs yesterday that the government's experience of fighting the coronavirus has shown "it's best to act decisively and swiftly when we see a potential threat, which is why we're building our defences and putting these measures in place without delay".
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said expanding the booster programme was "the best thing" the government could do while scientists carry out their research into the Omricon variant.
“The next three weeks are going to be weeks of scientific uncertainty, but whilst we wait for the mist to clear on what this concerning variant actually means, there is no time to delay."
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