Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to set out plans for “booster” vaccinations as he warns the Covid-19 pandemic is “far from over”.
At a press conference on Tuesday (September 14), he is to insist that vaccinations will allow the nation to get through the autumn and winter without requiring further lockdowns.
Mr Johnson said: “The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.”
Speaking in advance of the statement, Mr Johnson said: “I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.”
Downing Street admitted on Monday that further lockdowns could be considered as a “last resort” if needed. However, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are not seeing anything that suggests our NHS is about to be overwhelmed, and so there is no question of using those measures.”
There have been reports that local or regional lockdowns could be re-introduced, but the Prime Minister’s spokesman suggested this was unlikely. The spokesman pointed out that the Government had scrapped the policy of regional restrictions used last year, and the most recent measures had been nationwide.
Mr Johnson will set out an “autumn and winter plan” for dealing with Covid-19, with a focus on vaccines as the first line of defence, supported by testing, public health advice, and a variant surveillance system.
In England, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has remained relatively stable over the last month, and Downing Street says this shows that vaccines have been highly effective. An analysis by public health officials found that vaccinations have led to the prevention of 24,702,000 infections and 112,300 deaths, up to August 27.
The government has now received the final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on a booster programme, which involves providing a third vaccine dose to people who have already had two. The Prime Minister will set out how the programme will be rolled out to the most vulnerable, in a press conference at 4pm. Health Secretary Sajid Javid will also set out the plans in a statement to the House of Commons.
The booster programme is separate to plans to give a third dose to people with poor immune systems.
Meanwhile, the UK’s four chief medical officers said on Monday children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to reduce potential transmission in schools.
People aged 12-15 in England will be offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine from next week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed. Healthy school-aged children aged 12 to 15 will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.
Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff prior to vaccination, in line with existing school vaccination programmes.
Mr Javid said: “I have accepted the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officers to expand vaccination to those aged 12 to 15 – protecting young people from catching COVID-19, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.
“I am very grateful for the expert advice I have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and UK Chief Medical Officers.
“Our outstanding NHS stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme.”
Get the latest politics news direct to your inbox through our daily newsletter.