PM appeals for 'tens of thousands' of volunteers to help Covid booster jab roll out

13 December 2021, 22:33 | Updated: 14 December 2021, 00:21

Boris Johnson has issued an appeal to members of the public to step forward to assist the Covid booster jab programme
Boris Johnson has issued an appeal to members of the public to step forward to assist the Covid booster jab programme. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Prime Minister has issued an urgent appeal for "tens of thousands" of volunteers to step forward to assist the Covid booster jab programme.

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Boris Johnson has pleaded with members of the public to volunteer as the vaccination programme is ramped up to an unprecedented pace of delivery, in a bid to counter the new Omicron variant.

With a new target of administering 1million booster jabs a day to stem an incoming "tidal wave of Omicron" volunteers are needed to fill roles ranging from stewards to organise and manage the queues, to trained vaccinators to administer the jabs.

It follows the announcement on Sunday that every eligible adult in England is to be offered a top-up injection by the end of December, a month earlier than previously planned, while resources are being made available to the devolved nations to speed up delivery.

This makes up the "Omicron Emergency Boost" plan, which Mr Johnson said was a "national mission unlike anything we have seen before in the vaccination programme".

It reflects concern that two doses of the vaccine offer only reduced protection against the fast-spreading Omicron strain while a third jab significantly increases the protection provided.

Read more: Huge demand for Covid boosters as all adults in England become eligible

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Mr Johnson has acknowledged that it will require an "extraordinary effort" by the NHS with hundreds more vaccination sites, mobile units and pop-ups due to open over the coming week.

In a direct appeal to the public, Mr Johnson said: "As part of our Get Boosted Now vaccination drive we need to increase our jabbing capacity to unprecedented levels.

"But to achieve something on this scale, we need your help.

"So today I'm issuing a call for volunteers to join our national mission to get jabs in arms.

"We need tens of thousands of people to help out, everyone from trained vaccinators to stewards.

"Many thousands have already given their time but we need you to come forward again, to work alongside our brilliant GPs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to deliver jabs and save lives.

Read more: At least one person has died with Omicron, PM confirms

Read more: Covid-19: Where can I order a lateral flow test?

"So please come forward if you can."

A total of 42 military planning teams will be used for the emergency booster operation, more vaccine sites and mobile units will be stood up, and clinics will be able to open all week, with more appointments in the morning, evening and at the weekends.

Although the NHS booking system will not open for younger people until Wednesday, some places are already allowing walk-ins.

There currently almost 3,000 vaccine sites across the country, staffed by over 90,000 volunteers.

After the NHS last week announced a recruitment drive for 10,000 paid vaccinators, 4,500 people have registered their interest while 13,000 have come forward as volunteer stewards.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "In the face of the grave threat posed by the new Omicron strain of Covid, the NHS is seeking to offer vaccine booster protection to all eligible adults by the end of the month, a new national mission in which everyone can play their part.

"There is no doubt that our incredible NHS staff will rise to the challenge but we cannot do this alone, we need the support of the public and volunteers to once again support the Covid vaccination programme."

Read more: Health Sec warns some NHS appointments will be dropped to meet tough new booster target

Read more: South Africa top doc stresses that Omicron brings 'mild illness'

Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned some planned NHS appointments will be delayed in the government's drive to offer every adult in England a Covid booster vaccine by the end of the year.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast Mr Javid said it is a "race between the virus and the vaccine" and almost a million people will need to be jabbed every day in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and avoid the need for further restrictions.

He told LBC that already in London the Omicron variant has gone "from nothing to around 40% of infection", as he stressed the need for everyone to come forward for their vaccine.

"Two doses of the vaccine are not enough," he told Nick, explaining that three doses give "excellent protection" against Omicron.

Mr Javid told the Commons on Monday that Omicron will become the dominant strain in London in the next two days.

Read more: 'No guarantees': Health Sec refuses to rule out school closures in fight against Omicron

Read more: PM faces rebellion from almost 70 Tory MPs over Covid passports

It has prompted further restrictions including, from Tuesday, fully-vaccinated contacts of people with Covid-19 will needing to take daily lateral flow tests for a week after their exposure.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) insisted there was no shortage of lateral flow tests but said the site was experiencing "exceptionally high demand" and so online ordering had been "temporarily suspended"."

Everyone who needs a lateral flow test can collect test kits – either at their local pharmacy, some community sites and some schools and colleges," said the spokesperson.

"Due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders.

"The spokesperson said the pause was temporary and that availability would be refreshed daily, advising people to check back tomorrow, and to use tests they already have before trying to order more.