The rollout of Covid-19 booster jabs will be ramped up later this month, NHS England has confirmed.
Booster vaccines will be offered to all over 18s in England following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), in light of the new Omicron Covid variant.
The JCVI has said that all adults will become eligible for a top-up dose and will be able to get their jab three months after their second dose, instead of the previous six month wait.
The NHS booking service for booster jabs is yet to be updated, but NHS England has said it should be in place by 13 December.
What has NHS England said?
In a letter from the health service released on Friday (3 December), it was revealed that the booking system would be updated to reflect the reduced time between doses to three months “as soon as possible and no later than December 13”.
It said the jabs would be delivered “in descending age groups”, with priority to be given to older adults first, along with those who are in a Covid-19 at-risk group.
However, it is possible that the rollout could begin even earlier, as soon as the UK Health Security Agency updates its guidance.
GP surgeries have also now been given permission to defer routine health checks for those aged 75 and over to free up capacity to administer booster doses, and the Army and “clinical students” could be called on to help deliver the jabs.
While the pressure the health service is already facing was acknowledged, the letter stressed there was a “new national mission” after ministers set the challenge for the NHS to offer boosters to all adults in just 62 days.
Covid cases still increasing
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that Covid-19 infections have increased in all four UK nations and remain close to record levels, but the rise in infections is not linked to the Omicron variant.
However, more Omicron cases have now been reported, with 75 more infections being detected in England, bringing the UK total to 134 so far.
Cases of the variant have been detected in England, Scotland and most recently in Wales, but has not yet been reported in Northern Ireland.
The latest infections are thought to be linked to community infection rather than travel.
Despite the rising numbers, Downing Street has ruled out making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory to protect against the variant.
Austria has decided to enforce such a policy and it is currently also being considered in Germany.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister told reporters: “We’ve set out our policy on this and we’ve said it’s not something that we would look to introduce.
“You’re aware of the changes we made in terms of social care settings and for NHS workers, given the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
“But there’s no plans above and beyond that in that regard.”
“Our priority is to continue to promote vaccinations and promote boosters now that we are rolling out more and more boosters to more and more people.
“That is our priority, that’s our focus, and that’s what we’re asking people to come forward and take.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.