Johnson stated in a televised statement that everyone over 18 will receive a third shot of vaccine as a response to the omicron emergency. The previous target had been January 31st.
He stated that cases of the transmissible variant of highly transmissible omicron are increasing in Britain every two to three working days and that there is "a tsunami of omicrons coming."
Johnson stated, "And I'm afraid that it is now clear to me that two doses vaccine are simply insufficient to provide the level of protection that we all require." Our scientists are positive that a third dose, a booster dose, will be enough to increase our protection.
He declared a "national mission", to distribute booster vaccines. Pop-up vaccination centers will be available, and there will be support from military planners and volunteers who can provide additional support.
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.
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, preliminary data suggest that this effectiveness may increase to 70% to 75% following a third dose.
Johnson's announcement was made hours after Johnson announced that the government had raised the official coronavirus threat level in the country, warning that the rapid spread and severity of the omicron variant meant the U.K. was now at risk.
Chief medical officers in England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland, stated that the new highly transmissible strain "adds an additional and rapidly increasing danger to the public health care services and the public," at a time COVID-19 being widespread. They suggested raising the alert level to 4 from 3 on a 5-point scale. The highest level, 5, signifies that authorities believe the health care system will be overwhelmed.
Doctors stated that early evidence suggests that omicron is spreading faster than the dominant delta variant and that vaccines offer less protection. British officials believe that omicron will soon replace the dominant strain of delta in the U.K. within a matter of days.
They said that although data on severity will be clearer in the coming weeks, hospitalizations due to omicron are already happening and are expected to rise rapidly.
Johnson's Conservative government reintroduced restrictions that had been lifted nearly six months ago due to concerns about the new variant. For entry to nightclubs, masks must be worn. COVID-19 certificates are required. People are encouraged to work remotely if they can.
However, many scientists believe that this is unlikely to suffice and call for more severe measures. The government has so far resisted these calls.
Scientists from South Africa, the country where omicron was discovered for the first time, believe there are signs that it could cause less severe diseases than delta. However, they caution that it is still too early to know.