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Tags: Virus Outbreak | Britain

Long Queues Form as UK Starts Booster Blitz against Omicron

Long Queues Form as UK Starts Booster Blitz against Omicron

Monday, 13 December 2021 06:01 AM EST

LONDON (AP) — Long lines formed at vaccination centers in Britain on Monday as people heeded the government’s call for all adults to get booster shots to help withstand a coronavirus “tidal wave” driven by the omicron variant.

In a televised announcement late Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everyone 18 and up would be offered a third vaccine dose by Dec. 31 — less than three weeks away, and a month earlier than the previous target.

“We are now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant, omicron,” Johnson said. He said boosters would “reinforce our wall of vaccine protection” against an anticipated “tidal wave of omicron.”

While the online appointment booking system will not be open to under-30s until Wednesday, Johnson said any adult could show up at a walk-in center to get a booster starting Monday.

Lines built up at big London vaccination clinics on Monday morning. The line for shots at St. Thomas' Hospital, on the south bank of the River Thames in London, stretched across Westminster Bridge toward Parliament.

The government’s appointment-booking website struggled to keep up with demand. The National Health Service advised people to try accessing the site later in the day or on Tuesday, if they were having problems.

More than 80% of people age 12 and up in Britain have received two vaccine doses, and 40% of adults have had three. Giving the rest boosters by the end of the month will be a huge challenge, requiring almost 1 million doses administered a day. Johnson acknowledged that many routine medical procedures would have to be postponed to meet the goal.

Teams of military planners and thousands of volunteer vaccinators will help give the jabs at doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and pop-up vaccination centers.

The U.K. Health Security Agency says existing vaccines appear less effective in preventing symptomatic infections in people exposed to omicron, though effectiveness appears to rise to between 70% and 75% after a third vaccine dose.

Johnson’s Dec. 31 target applies to England. The other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are also expected to speed up their vaccination campaigns.

The British government raised the country’s official coronavirus threat level on Sunday, warning the rapid spread of omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and health care services” at a time when COVID-19 is already widespread.

Health authorities said early evidence shows omicron is spreading much faster than the currently dominant delta variant, with cases doubling every two to three days, and omicron is likely to replace delta as the dominant strain in the U.K. within days.

Scientists in South Africa, where omicron was first identified, say they see signs the variant may cause less severe disease than delta but cautioned it was too soon to be certain.

Concerns about the new variant led Johnson’s Conservative government to reintroduce restrictions that were lifted almost six months ago. Masks must be worn in most indoor settings, COVID-19 certificates must be shown to enter nightclubs and as of Monday, people were urged to work from home, if possible.

Many scientists say those measures are unlikely to be enough and are calling for tougher ones. But cafes, pubs and other businesses located in city centers fear plummeting commuter numbers will hammer business in the usually busy pre-Christmas period.

Robert Read, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, said it was still unclear how severe cases of COVID-19 from omicron would be but “the evidence is that omicron probably requires much larger amounts of antibody in the blood in order to thwart the virus as much as possible”

“We need to get those third doses into as many adults as we possibly can, just in case this virus turns out to be a raging bull just rather than a pussy cat,” Read told radio station LBC.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


GlobalTalk
Long lines formed at vaccination centers in Britain on Monday as people heeded the government's call for all adults to get booster shots to help withstand a coronavirus "tidal wave" driven by the omicron variant.In a televised announcement late Sunday, Prime Minister Boris...
Virus Outbreak,Britain
647
2021-01-13
Monday, 13 December 2021 06:01 AM
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