Covid booster jags to be offered to adults after just three months
All adults are to be offered a booster jab, after government advisers cut the gap between vaccine doses to just three months, following mounting concerns over the Omicron variant.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that the waiting time should be cut in half for everyone aged 18 to 39.
Severely immunocompromised people will be also eligible for boosters three months after their primary course of three vaccinations, while 12- to 15-year-olds should now be able to get their second Covid jabs.
Previously, boosters were only available for the over-40s, and the clinically vulnerable, and only six months after their second dose.
The new JCVI advice effectively doubles the number of people eligible
There are now 11 cases in the UK identified, including six in Scotland - four in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. More are expected to be identified in the days to come.
The Scottish Government said some of the infected people had not travelled outside the country, suggesting there is already a level of community transmission.
Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, welcomed the JCVI's advice, and said work was already underway on the implementation.
He added: “Urgent talks with health boards and vaccination partners are underway and further information on the delivery of this advice will follow as soon as possible.
“In the meantime we will continue to prioritise booster vaccinations for older adults and those in COVID-19 at-risk groups, working through the priority groups as we have done throughout the pandemic.
“Booster appointments are currently being offered to all those over 40 years old and we encourage anyone who is eligible for a booster - or who is still to have any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine - to book an appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Speaking candidly at a briefing in London, the UK Government’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam admitted: “We don't know what's going to happen next.”
He added: “The next three weeks are going to be weeks of scientific uncertainty. But while we wait for the mist to clear on what this concerning variant actually means, there is no time to delay.
“It's our opportunity to get ahead and vaccine boosting is the thing we can do most easily whilst we wait for that science mist to clear.”
In a football metaphor, Van-Tam said the UK had started with “11 players in the team with the Wuhan vaccine”.
He added: “And you could say that we've kind of picked up a couple of injuries when Alpha came along. And then Delta came along. They are variants that are slightly different from the Wuhan original strain. And we've had to use our subs off the bench to keep us in the game but we're well in the game. And you can see that with the current epidemiology in relation to Delta that the vaccines are holding up very well and largely keeping us out of trouble.
“Now Omicron is like now picking up a couple of yellow cards to key players on top. We may be okay. But we kind of starting to feel at risk that we might go down to 10 players. And if that happens, or if that's a risk that it's going to happen, then we need everyone on the pitch to up their game in the meantime. And that's really upping your game in terms of boosters. And in terms of antibody responses.
“We're not going to wait for the red card to happen. We're going to act decisively now and we're asking everyone to up their game.”
Speaking earlier at a Scottish Government briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s important to prepare for the worst. That does not mean that we are not hoping for something considerably short of the worst. We are still hoping for the best.”
She urged people to take regular lateral flow tests and follow the rules on mask wearing in public places.