It seems Covid-19 has an early gift for us this Christmas: a new mutation of the virus, named Omicron.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t come with the receipt. But, the UK already has plans to tackle this new variant: by widening the amount of vaccine booster programmes.
In England, adults are now expected to receive their third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. As well as this, children between the ages of 12–15 are now encouraged to receive their second dose.
The rest of the UK are expected to begin implementing this booster programme soon.
There are further changes made to the original booster programme which are quite significant — the UK government had originally planned for adults to receive a 6-month gap between each vaccination, but now the time has been shortened to only 3 months.
The UK has now become the country with the shortest waiting time between each vaccination.
This new scheme makes additionally 15 million people across the UK eligible for a vaccination. A further 1.5 million will join this number by the end of the year.
Additionally, any individuals entering the UK are now obliged to take a PCR test and self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status.
People are also being heavily encouraged to receive their booster shots and, as I’m sure we are all very much eager to be Covid-free for the holidays, 2 million people have been receiving their booster shots every week.
Recently, confirmed Omicron cases in the UK have risen to 11 and officials are considering implementing further health and safety measures within the very near future, if the new data being collected indicates that Omicron could be a serious threat.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said “the number of mutations [of coronavirus] makes us worry about a possible effect on vaccine effectiveness.”
As well as this, a senior government insider stated, “[officials] would be willing to pull the trigger on other measures sooner if the data showed it was necessary.” Not exactly a comforting thought, as the government insider is suggesting that officials if they feel that Omicron needs a tougher response, will be willing to act on it regardless of how much data they have.
This could result in the return of previous Covid restrictions, however, some conservative MP’s have voiced their concerns about this. The chair of the Covid Recovery Group, Mark Harper, questioned the processes by which Omicron would be identified and he communicated to those who tested positive.
Nevertheless, it is now obligatory to wear masks in crowded, public spaces, such as supermarkets and public transport. Secondary school pupils are also being strongly advised to wear masks in communal areas.
The UK has also recently made a contract with Pfizer to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year. With the UK already being in possession of 40 million Pfizer doses, there will be enough to cover all booster vaccination programmes. For the near future, at least.
Written by Jade Andrew
Research conducted by Louis-Daniel Oloyede
UK to expand Covid booster jab campaign to all adults, The Financial Times,