Booster jabs should now be offered to all over-18s, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), has said.
Although JCVI has advised all adults should now have their boosters, it has said those who are clinically vulnerable should be prioritised and in order of descending age groups, as was done during the second and first phases of the vaccination programme. Over 40s are already eligible to have their boosters.
Those who are immunocompromised should be offered another booster, meaning they will have their fourth vaccination.
Children aged 12 to 15 years should now be eligible to have their second dose, the JCVI has said.
The government is advising adults can either have Moderna or Pfizer booster vaccines for the new Omicron variant, with an equal preference given to both.
Exactly when under 40s will be invited to have their booster shots will be a decision for the NHS’ vaccination programme to decide.
In a speech to think tank the King’s Fund, annual conference on Monday, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, said NHS staff will “move heaven and earth to vaccinate as many people as possible” to ensure that people can enjoy Christmas with their loved ones.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.
“This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months.
“If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”
Experts believe the new Omicron variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in stopping people getting infected, though they think vaccines may still protect against severe disease.
However, it could be three more weeks before further details emerge from scientists on how transmissible the variant is, whether it evades vaccine protection and whether it causes more severe disease.
The UK now has nine confirmed cases of the variant after the Scottish government announced on Monday morning it had discovered four cases in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
One other case has been identified in Brentwood, Essex, with another in Nottingham, while a third case was detected in England on Sunday in a person with travel links to southern Africa who visited Westminster before leaving the country.