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Boris Johnson to launch ‘national vaccination mission’ to head off omicron Covid variant with boosters

Downing Street will try and regain control of the narrative on Sunday evening after a politically torrid week

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 12 December 2021 18:16 GMT
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Boris Johnson promises Covid booster vaccines for every adult by end of January

Boris Johnson is set to launch a “national vaccination mission” in a bid to head off the omicron variant of Covid-19.

Giving a televised address to the nation at 8pm on Sunday, the prime minister is expected to warn the more virulent strain of Covid will soon become the dominant one in the UK.

The Independent understands Mr Johnson will set a target to give boosters to a large proportion of the population by Christmas.

He is expected to say that the latest data around omicron's transmissibility and ability to evade vaccines is "deeply concerning".

The PM will draw on the latest data, which suggests that booster shots of existing vaccines are effective at stopping omicron – but that two shots do not always offer sufficient protection.

It comes as the prime minister struggles to regain control of the news narrative, following a politically torrid few weeks of being battered on sleaze, corruption, and lockdown rulebreaking.

On Friday the UK Health Security Agency said its data showed boosters significantly restore protection against Covid, reversing an otherwise steep drop in vaccine effectiveness.

"These early estimates should be treated with caution but they indicate that a few months after the second jab, there is a greater risk of catching the Omicron variant compared to Delta strain," Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UKHSA, said.

"The data suggest this risk is significantly reduced following a booster vaccine, so I urge everyone to take up their booster when eligible."

On Saturday scientists advising the government at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned that Omicron could cause between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths in England over the next five months without additional restrictions, under their most pessimistic scenario.

Even under their study's most optimistic scenario a peak of 2,400 daily hospital admissions would be seen if England stayed under the government's "plan B" measures,.

But the scientists said much of their calculations relied on the efficacy of the government's booster programme and the speed at which it could be rolled out.

Downing Street has confirmed Mr Johnson will give an address later on Sunday. Speaking on Sunday morning Nadhim Zahawi said the prime minister would explain more about the government's approach to booster vaccines when he appeared.

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