Vaccine advisors to the government have recommended the expansion of the Covid jab programme and boosters to combat the new variant Omicron.
The changes to the Covid jab programme includes booster for all who are aged over 18, plus shortening the gap between a persons second jab and the booster to three months from six months.
Children who are aged between 12 and 15 will be allowed to have their second jab after no less than three months.
The Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said, “scientists scientists around the world” agree that the Omicron variant is “of increased concern.”
However, he stressed there is a “high degree of current uncertainty” over the new variant.
Speaking at a televised data briefing, Professor Van-Tam said, “I want to be clear that this is not all doom and gloom at this stage and I do not want people to panic at this stage.
“If vaccine effectiveness is reduced as seems pretty likely to some extent, the biggest effects are likely to be in preventing infections and hopefully there will be smaller effects on preventing severe disease.
“But that is something that is there for scientists to work out in the next few weeks.”
He said that booster programme “has never been more vital than at this point in time.”
Professor Van-Tam explained, “To me, and as you know, I love football, we started with 11 players in the team with the Wuhan vaccine and you could say that we kind of picked up a couple of injuries when Alpha came along and then Delta came along, those variants that are 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 are well in he 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 are kind of starting to feel at risk that we might go down to 10 players.
“And if that happens, or if it is a risk that that is going to happen, then we need everyone on the pitch to up their game in the meantime. And that is really upping their game in terms of boosters and in terms of antibody responses.
“We are not going to wait for the red card to happen, we are going to act decisively now and we are asking everyone to up their game.
“We are asking everyone to play their part in the urgency now of the booster programme – coming forward the moment you are called by the NHS.
“The booster campaign has never been more vital than at this point in time.”
Those who are severely immunosuppressed will also be given a further booster this winter, which will act as a fourth dose.