Covid Latest: What's Going On With The Booster Rollout?

The new campaign to give every adult a third dose of the vaccine has not quite met expectations.
The booster vaccine is not going quite as well as planned
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The booster vaccine is not going quite as well as planned

Covid booster jabs have been made available to every double-vaccinated adult in the UK – so why are there reports of the campaign slowing?

Eleven days ago, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that the booster programme would be prioritised as one of Britain’s primary forms of defence against Omicron.

Two days later the vaccine watchdog, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), recommended that all boosters should become available to everyone aged 18 and over, and that the gap between jabs should be shortened to just three months.

It added that severely immunosuppressed people aged 16 and over should get a fourth dose and that 12-15 year olds should now get a second vaccine dose.

Downing Street quickly accepted these recommendations and said it wanted all adults to be offered a third jab by the end of January.

The booster is expected be offered to people in order of vulnerability and everyone is advised to wait until they are contacted by the NHS before booking a jab.

So what’s gone wrong?

Around 22 million will be ready for their booster by the middle of this month, according to estimates seen by The Telegraph.

But, reportedly, these people are unlikely to be jabbed until the end of January due to the slow rollout, rising Covid cases and hospital admissions.

Although 20 million people have received their booster so far, the extended rollout programme needs to reach more age groups to battle Omicron.

Stats from the NHS show the number of boosters administered in England over the weekend was significantly lower than the previous one, with administrations dropping to 221,674 from 223,189.

It appears that the official booster scheme still needs to be changed to encompass the JCVI’s new recommendations.

The three-month gap between the second and third dose – compared to the previous six-month gap – has not been introduced. According to the i, almost a quarter of people aged over 40 are yet to receive their booster.

This is a significant issue.

As deputy prime minister Dominic Raab pointed out on Tuesday while speaking to BBC Breakfast, the government does not plan to introduce plan B restrictions because “of the success of the vaccine programme”.

Yet, unless enough people receive the booster jab, the population could be more susceptible to the new variant Omicron.

Is anyone to blame?

The JCVI has been criticised for not reducing the gap between the second and third jabs sooner, which would have allowed more vulnerable people and older age groups to get their boosters before Omicron took hold.

NHS England has received some backlash for not administering enough jabs, as health chiefs collided with unions over which services should take part in the rollout. This would mean GPs would have to prioritising jabs over seeing patients with other needs.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is now taking some of the heat for not offering NHS England any advice on how to cope with the rollout on a national scale, while the Department of Health and Social Care is also being blamed for not acting sooner, before the new variant broke into the UK.

Other factors to consider

It’s important to note that the uptake of first and second doses has now decreased, which will inevitably curtail the booster efforts as well.

Vaccination rates have declined in all age groups aside from the youngest, who have only recently been given the go-ahead to get the vaccine.

There is also a little variation in the vaccine programme across the UK – Scotland has the highest uptake for those aged 12 and over at 91% of the population with at least one dose.

Wales has 90% coverage, while England has 89% and Northern Ireland has 86%.

Yet, the UK is still one of the top countries when it comes to global vaccination rates.