All adults to be offered third Covid jab by end of January, says Boris Johnson

Every eligible adult in the UK should be offered a Covid booster by the end of January as ministers race to increase protection against the Omicron variant, Boris Johnson has announced.

“We’re going to be throwing everything at it, to ensure everyone eligible is offered a booster in just over two months,” the prime minister said, adding that he would be getting his own third vaccine on Thursday.

He said the government’s aim was for the pace of the rollout to match that seen for earlier courses of the vaccine. “There will be temporary vaccine centres popping up like Christmas trees,” he said.

As before, age groups will be invited one at a time, eldest to youngest, to receive their booster. “We’ll move down the cohorts rapidly,” Johnson said.

The prime minister was speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and the chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard.

Shortly before the briefing began, the UK Health Security Agency announced that a further eight cases of the Omicron variant had been discovered in England, bringing the UK total to 22.

The prime minister urged the public not to be gloomy about news of the emergence of the new variant, insisting the country was in a much better position with vaccines available. “Right now, our best single defence against Omicron is to get vaccinated and to get boosted,” the prime minister said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended on Monday that all over-18s be offered a third jab, and the gap between the second and third doses be halved to three months.

Javid said: “We’re now able to put our booster programme on steroids, and protect even more people, even more quickly … If we want to give ourselves the chance of a Christmas with our loved ones, the best thing we can do is step up, roll up our sleeves, and get protected when the time comes.”

Pritchard said for the time being only those already eligible for a booster, which includes over-40s whose second jab was six months ago, would be able to book an appointment, and it would later be opened more widely. She urged people to wait until they are contacted by the NHS before trying to book.

Pritchard said the NHS now has almost 3,000 vaccination sites available across the UK. But she stressed that while the NHS was confident it could meet the end-January target for offering all adults a booster, she warned “it can’t happen overnight”, pointing to the pressures on health service staff.

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