Sajid Javid Britain’s health minister on Sunday said that he expected to get advice imminently on whether the government can broaden a booster shot programme to try to deteriorate the impact of the newly identified Omicron COVID-19 variant.
In order to slow down the spread of the variant the government announced new measures on Saturday by strengthening rules for people arriving into Britain and ordering the use of face masks in trade settings and on transport in England. But ministers also want to increase the offer of booster jabs, saying even if vaccines prove to be less effective against Omicron, they should provide better offer for protection against it and reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
‘The other thing that still remains hugely important, but I think it’s fair to say now more important than it was before, is our vaccination programme,’ Javid told Sky News. ‘That is why I have also asked our expert advisers on vaccines called JCVI (the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to give me very quick advice on broadening, boosting our booster programme, and I expect to get that advice imminently.’
The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a’variant of concern’ last week by the World Health Organization, has sparked worries around the world that it could repel vaccinations and protract the nearly two- time COVID-19 epidemic. Britain has verified two cases of the new variant, and Javid said the new measures were demanded to buy time for experts to try to understand further about Omicron, which may, or may not, make vaccines less effective.
Paul Burton, chief medical officer at Moderna, said if a new vaccine was needed to tackle the variant, ‘I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities’. Javid repeated that it was not as yet clear whether vaccines were less effective against the variant.