The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a Covid vaccine booster dose, in order of descending age groups, to increase their level of protection. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster jab.
Booster doses should be given no sooner than three months after people have had their second dose of an original vaccine – shaving three months off the current six-month wait, according to the JCVI.
In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.
In Sheffield, latest figures show that one in four people aged over 16 have had already had their third or booster dose, with the figure rising to 52 per cent among those aged 50 or above.
Why do people need to get their Covid booster jab?
The rate among over-50s is the 10th best out of 21 local authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber, but the overall rate for people aged 16 or above is 20th in the region, ahead of only Bradford.
Expanding the vaccine booster programme is just one of the steps being taken to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.
From today, Tuesday November 30, the wearing of face masks is compulsory in shops and on public transport, while PCR tests have been brought back in for travellers returning to the UK.
Pupils in year seven and above, teachers and visitors are also being advised to wear face coverings in communal areas at schools, colleges and universities in England.
What has Boris Johnson said about Covid booster jabs and the Omicron variant?
This afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference to urge people to have their booster jabs when called forward by the NHS.
As of this morning, some 14 cases of the Omicron variant had been identified across the UK, though experts expect this number to rise in the coming days.
It is thought the variant could be more transmissible and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, though England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has said jabs may still prevent severe disease.
Urging people not to panic, he told how there were still uncertainties about how transmissible the variant is and its impact on severity of disease.
“On the effects of the new variants, and how well vaccine effectiveness will hold up, here I want to be clear that this is not all doom and gloom at this stage,” he said.
“I do not want people to panic at this stage. If vaccine effectiveness is reduced, as seems pretty likely to some extent, the biggest effects are likely to be in preventing infections and, hopefully, there will be smaller effects on preventing severe disease.”
Professor Van-Tam added that the booster campaign has ‘never been more vital than at this point in time’.