All adults to be offered Covid booster jab to fight Omicron variant

29 November 2021, 15:07 | Updated: 7 June 2023, 08:56

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam gave the update on the booster programme live from Downing Street.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam gave the update on the booster programme live from Downing Street. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Government advisors have recommended an expansion of the coronavirus booster vaccine programme for 18 to 39-year-olds.

Third doses will be available at least three months after the second one, the JCVI has announced.

The advice has been made after new cases of the Omicron variant were found in the UK - with a total of 11 confirmed cases detected and more expected in the coming days.

Teenagers aged between 12 and 15 will also be offered a second jab.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced later in the Commons that severely immunosuppressed people will be given access to another booster - meaning for some, a fourth dose.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Professor Wei Shen Lim and Dr June Raine gave the update during a live briefing from Downing Street on Monday, on behalf of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Read more: Live: Omicron likely spreading in the UK as booster announcement expected

Read more: Downing Street confirms schools won't break up early for Christmas amid Omicron fears

'It's not all doom and gloom at this stage'

Speaking at Downing Street, England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said the Omicron variant - the "new kid on the block" - is concerning scientists around the world.

He told a Downing Street press conference: "It's always been the case that, at some point, we have always said it - we are going to get a variant that gives us heightened concern.

"We are at that moment with Omicron, it is the new kid on the block for now and I think it's true to say that scientists around the world, not just in the UK, agree that this one is of increased concern."

Sajid Javid announces booster programme ramp-up

He said the number of mutations they've seen makes experts worry about vaccine effectiveness against it.

But he said this is not all "doom and gloom" and "I do not want people to panic".

He said that even if vaccine effectiveness is reduced they will likely still prevent infections and severe diseases.

Read more: Omicron: Symptoms, cases, and what we know so far

Booster programme should be extended to over-18s, JCVI advises

The booster programme has "never been more vital", Prof Van-Tam added.

It comes as a number of other measures have been tightened to deal with the new variant, which first emerged in South Africa.

Three cases have been confirmed in England - in Essex, Nottingham and Westminster - and six have been found in Scotland.

Professor of immunology reassures on the dangers of Omicron

To help curb the spread, face mask rules have been made stricter, with teachers and pupils in year seven and above now being "strongly advised" to wear them in communal areas in English schools.

They will also become mandatory in shops and public transport, although not in hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants.

This story is being updated