London, Dec 31 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his New Year’s Eve message on Friday to celebrate the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme with over seven in 10 eligible adults in England boosted so far, an increase of 8 million top up jabs this month amid the Omicron spike.
Johnson declared that the government has met the target to offer the chance to get a COVID-19 booster to every eligible adult by the end of 2021 and urged those who haven’t yet been jabbed to take up the offer of a booster, or even their first or second dose.
His message comes as the country’s daily COVID infections remain at record highs of 183,213, largely driven by the Omicron variant, with experts hopeful these will not translate into a similar spike in severe disease and hospitalisations.
“Happy New Year. 2022 is almost upon us. And whatever the challenges that fate continues to throw in our way and whatever the anxieties we may have about the weeks and months ahead, particularly about Omicron and the growing numbers in hospitals… we can say one thing with certainty – our position this December the 31st is incomparably better than last year,” said Johnson.
“And as I speak tonight on New Year’s Eve, we’ve met our target, we’ve doubled the speed of the booster roll out. And it’s precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all,” he said, urging caution with New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Addressing the minority who are opposed to vaccines, he said people who think the disease can’t hurt them should look at those going into hospital now, “that could be you”.
“So, make it your New Year’s resolution – far easier than losing weight or keeping a diary – find a walk-in centre or make an online appointment. Get that jab and do something that will make 2022 a happy New Year for us all,” he added.
On November 30, the British government announced plans to offer all adults the chance to get their top-up booster jab by the end of January 2022. This target was brought forward earlier this month through the “Get Boosted Now” campaign, aiming to offer all adults a top-up booster by the New Year in response to the surging Omicron variant.
Since then, the National Health Service (NHS) in England said it has broken record after record – including the highest number of vaccinations ever recorded in a single day: 830,000 top-ups reported on December 18.
This was also the day the UK hit over 1 million vaccinations in total, including first, second, third and booster doses – jumping from 928,000 the previous day.
“Our world-leading vaccination programme has meant tens of millions of people have been able to see their loved ones this Christmas knowing they have the protection of the booster,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“I am delighted to confirm we have hit our target of offering a COVID-19 booster to all adults by the New Year. I am incredibly proud of the work the NHS has done to accelerate the programme and offer my thanks to the frontline staff, volunteers, Armed Forces and British public who have made it possible for us to meet this commitment,” he said.
The dose interval between the second dose and booster dose was reduced from six months to three months on the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – with bookings made available one month in advance.
“I am hugely grateful for the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff and volunteers this year, who have gone above and beyond to roll out the NHS vaccination programme and who, in just over 12 months, have administered more than 110 million life-saving COVID-19 jabs,” said Dr Emily Lawson, the head of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The NHS notes the UK’s booster programme is one of the fastest in the world, as the second country in Europe after Iceland and third in the world for the number of boosters per 100 people in the total population. In all, 33.5 million top-up jabs have been administered in the UK, as well as 51.7 million first and 47.4 million second doses. PTI AK RS RS
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