Britons rush for shots in booster blitz to stop omicron

LONDON (AP), -- Monday saw long lines at vaccination centers in England as people responded to the government's appeal for adults to get booster shots to prevent the omicron variant. The U.K. had just recorded the first case of an omicron-infected patient.

13 December 2021 Monday 12:27
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Britons rush for shots in booster blitz to stop omicron

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, announced that everyone aged 18 and over would receive a third dose of vaccines by December 31. This is less than three weeks away and one month before the original target.

Johnson stated that boosters would "reinforce [our wall of vaccine protection] against an expected "tidal waves of omicron." U.K. Health authorities claim that omicron cases are increasing by doubling every two-three days in Britain and will soon replace delta as the predominant coronavirus strain.

On Sunday, the British government increased the threat level for coronavirus in the country. It warned that the rapid spread omicron could "add additional and rapidly increasing risks to the public health care services and the public."

Scientists from South Africa where the variant was first identified believe it may cause less severe diseases than delta, but caution that it is too early to know for sure. The world's health authorities are closely monitoring Britain to determine what an omicron surge might look like in a country with a more vaccinated population than South Africa. Johnson reported Monday the first COVID-19-omicron fatality.

Johnson stated that Johnson was skeptical of the idea that the virus is milder. He visited London's vaccination center to learn more. "So, the best thing that we can all do is get our boosters."

According to the U.K. Health Security Agency, existing vaccines are less effective at preventing symptomatic infection in people who have been exposed to omicron. However, effectiveness seems to increase to 70% to 75% after a third dose.

Over 80% of children 12 years and older in Britain have had two doses of vaccines. 40% have had three. It will take almost one million shots per day to give boosters to adults the remaining time. Johnson admitted that routine medical procedures will have to be delayed in order to reach the goal.

There will be 750 soldiers and thousands more volunteers who will give jabs in hospitals, pharmacies, doctors' offices and pop-up vaccination centres.

Johnson stated that while the online appointment system for boosters will be closed to those under 30 until Wednesday, anyone can walk into a center and get a booster beginning Monday.

The rush to the big London vaccination clinics was a result. The queue for shots at St. Tom's Hospital on London's south bank of River Thames stretched from Westminster Bridge to Parliament. People waited patiently at many clinics despite the fact that they were told they would have to wait several hours.

Most people who lined up at the Gordon Hospital in central London were in their 20s or 30s.

Sam Collins, 30, said that it takes only one hour for him to get a boost. It takes a lot of time but I have seen many other clinics via social media with much longer wait times.

He stated that he wasn't particularly concerned about omicron. However, he said that he would prefer to be triple-vaccinated. My partner just had a baby, so I'd be happy to get extra vaccines.

The government's appointment-booking site was unable to keep up with demand. It also ran out of quick at-home virus testing kits. These kits were distributed free to all households during the pandemic. To enter nightclubs or other public places, English citizens must have proof of vaccination.

Johnson's Dec. 31 target for England applies. Other parts of the U.K., including Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are expected to accelerate their vaccination campaigns.

Omicron is spreading all over the globe, but Britain could be particularly affected due to its high level of travel to South Africa. Because the U.K. is a leader in genomic sequencing, a technique that identifies and tracks new variants, the omicron epidemic is more apparent in Britain.

According to GISAID (which promotes rapid sharing data on COVID-19, and flu), researchers in the U.K. sequenced 13.3% of all positive cases. Although Denmark and Iceland have sequenced more of their positive cases than Britain, Britain has sequenced far more.

This surveillance was key evidence Johnson and his chief medical officer used to decide to tighten the pandemic restrictions in the United Kingdom and increase the U.K. vaccination program.

Johnson's Conservative government requires vaccination certificates in order to enter nightclubs. It also reintroduces restrictions that were lifted nearly six months ago. In most indoor settings, masks must be worn once more. People were encouraged to work remotely as of Monday.

Scientists believe that these measures will not be sufficient and call for more stringent ones. Cafes, bars, and shops in cities centers worry that a drop in commuters could mean a decrease in business during the busy period before Christmas.

Johnson will face a rebellion from unhappy Conservative lawmakers as Parliament votes Tuesday on new virus restrictions. Many are expected to protest the restrictions, particularly vaccine passports. They claim they are unfair and economically harmful.

With support from the Labour Party, these measures are highly likely to pass.

Robert Read, University of Southampton professor of infectious diseases, stated that it is still not clear how severe cases of COVID-19 caused by omicron will be. However, "the evidence suggests that omicron probably needs much higher amounts of antibody to fight the virus as far as possible."

Read stated that "we need to get those third doses in as many adults as possible, just in case the virus turns out to a raging Bull rather than a pussycat." Read spoke to radio station LBC.

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