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Johnson has made booster vaccines available for over-18s from Monday, but could his ambitious plans for vaccination before the new year be a response to the Downing Street Christmas party controversy?
Following the initial announcement of Plan B COVID restrictions on the 8th of December, the Prime Minister has made a further statement about the roll-out of vaccine boosters for all UK adults over the age of 18 in the hopes of fighting a projected spike of Omicron COVID cases.
Though initial Plan B measures like mask-wearing in shops and on public transport are already in place, the recent rise in cases has prompted the need for further restrictions: the return to working from home (for those able to), enforced mask wearing in more public settings and the usage of COVID passports to allow admittance to certain venues.
Additionally, subject to a vote in Parliament on Wednesday, those who are not already double vaccinated will have to show a negative lateral flow test to gain entry into places with large crowds such as nightclubs: a measure that Lancaster’s ‘Sugarhouse’ has implemented since its reopening in September.
Furthermore, in Johnson’s latest announcement today, he outlined the plan for a vaccine booster roll-out, building on the initial target of “offer[ing] every eligible adult a booster by the end of January;” all eligible adults will now be offered a vaccine booster by the new year.
This is in response to fears of the effect that the Omicron variant could have, not only affecting individuals’ health, but also creating an increased strain on the NHS after revelations on the ineffectiveness of existing vaccination levels against the variant. The UK’s COVID alert level has now been raised to stage 4 as a result.
The new booster programme aims to return general immunity to a level that will be effective in reducing the spread of the variant. The PM spoke about this solution in his address and the imperative need for eligible adults to get their booster jab:
“The good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose – a booster dose – we can all bring our level of protection back up.
And I know there will be some people watching who will be asking whether Omicron is less severe than previous variants, and whether we really need to go out and get that booster. And the answer is yes we do.”Boris Johnson, 12/12/21 booster statement
Following the new booster programme, which has been dubbed “Omicron Emergency Boost,” all those over the age of 18 who received their second dose of the vaccine at least 3 months ago will be eligible for walk-in appointments in certain venues or will be able to book their booster vaccine on the NHS website.
In his address, the PM stated that over half a million booster vaccines were administered yesterday to the older demographic that were eligible before the latest push, however, there will need to be an even greater national drive to combat the threat of an Omicron spike.
This will hopefully be achieved by the deployment of 42 military planning teams, alongside additional mobile vaccine sites to increase the amount of appointments throughout the week, including weekends.
The PM finished his statement strongly urging for people to get vaccinated:
“Over the past year we have shown that vaccination is the key to beating Covid and that it works.”Boris Johnson, 12/12/21 booster statement
Putting aside the new ambitious targets of the PM, his current drive for booster vaccination marks a move away from the initial ‘stay at home’ rhetoric of the pandemic. The only semblance of this in his most recent addresses has been the meek suggestion of working from home for those able to do so.
When cast against the current Downing Street Christmas party backlash, the push for boosters appears as a possible attempt at moving attention away from Tory hypocrisy. It is now dangerous for Johnson to preach the ‘stay at home’ rhetoric in light of his ignorant behaviour.