Omicron Emergency Booster Programme Announcement & BuDS’ Reaction

The Prime Minister has warned of an emergency situation in the UK because of the growth of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The Government have not announced any further precautions against the spread of Omicron, but they have called for all adults to get a booster vaccine dose as quickly as possible. Read on for more.


 

OMICRON EMERGENCY BOOSTER PROGRAMME

From tomorrow (13 December) everyone over 40 who had their second vaccine dose more than 3 months ago (before 14 September) will be able to book a booster appointment. From Wednesday, all adults over 18 will be able to book their booster appointment. This is well over 20 million people.

The Prime Minister has promised that every adult eligible for a booster will be OFFERED a booster appointment by the end of December. This does not mean that everyone will have received their booster dose by the end of December, only that they will have been offered the opportunity to make an appointment, which could be in the New Year. So, the Prime Minister’s promise does not in itself make very much difference to the speed of the booster programme.

The Prime Minister announced an ‘extraordinary effort’ to speed up the booster programme. Many hospital appointments will be cancelled to allow hospital staff to give vaccinations, and GPs are also being told to prioritise vaccinations over non-emergency work. In effect, the NHS is being partly shut down in order to deliver a faster vaccination programme. Retired healthcare professionals and those working outside the NHS will be asked to volunteer to give vaccination doses. Planning teams will be brought in from the Army, although it is not clear what difference this will make. More vaccination sites will be opened, and they will be open for longer, including Sundays.


 

WILL THE EMERGENCY BOOSTER PROGRAMME WORK?

The Prime Minister was careful to promise only that every eligible adult would be OFFERED a booster appointment by the end of December. This is just a matter of sending out emails and texts and obviously can be achieved. However, the real question is whether or not every eligible adult will actually receive their booster vaccine by the end of December.

The record number of vaccinations given by the NHS on one day is just over 1 million. For every adult to receive a booster vaccine by the end of December, the NHS will have to vaccinate over a million people every single day, including weekends. Even with additional staff from hospitals, this is an extremely challenging target and, in BuDS’ opinion, it is unlikely to be achieved.


 

THREE VITAL THINGS TO REMEMBER

These are three vital things to remember:

  1. Even if you are double-vaccinated, your level of protection against Omicron is much lower than your level of protection against Delta (which was not that high).

    If 10 people had had 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and all of them caught Delta, 6 of them would have symptoms of Covid-19 (40% protection). If the same 10 people had had 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and all of them caught Omicron, then 9 of them would have symptoms of Covid-19 (10% protection). So, your chance of being ill with Covid-19 if you catch Omicron is much higher than if you had caught Delta.

    If 10 people had had 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and all of them caught Delta, 4 of them would have symptoms of Covid-19 (60% protection). If the same 10 people had had 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and all of them caught Omicron, then 6 of them would have symptoms of Covid-19 (40% protection). So, your chance of being ill with Covid-19 if you catch Omicron is again much higher than if you had caught Delta.
  1. Even if you have had your booster vaccine, you only have a maximum of 75% protection against becoming ill with Covid-19 if you catch Omicron. What this means is that if 10 people have had booster doses, and all of them caught Omicron, 2 or 3 of them would have symptoms of Covid-19. So, even having a booster does not give you complete protection against Omicron
  1. Your booster jab takes at least 3 weeks to give you its full protection (up to 75%). So, even if you are jabbed before the end of the year, it will be near the end of January before the dose will have given you its full protection. If you catch Omicron before your booster has taken effect, your level of protection against serious illness is low. So, you must be even more careful not to catch Omicron before your booster has taken full effect.

To learn more about the Omicron variant, please use the links below.


 

WHY HAS THE PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCED THIS PROGRAMME?

It has been obvious to scientists for at least 3 weeks that Omicron was going to be a very dangerous new variant. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Government has been very slow to admit this and to do anything about it. Now that, in the Prime Minister’s words, “there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming”, the Government have finally reacted. However, despite the seriousness of the situation, the Government have not announced any further Covid-19 precautions such as re-introducing social distancing, masks in schools, the vaccination of children, or closing places where crowds gather. It is unlikely that the Government could get such precautions into law without the support of Opposition parties given the extremist backbenchers who oppose all Covid-19 precautions.


 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Omicron is a real and rapidly growing threat to you and your loved ones. Vaccine protection has allowed society to ‘go back to normal’ without any Covid-19 protections, although the cost of that has been over 1000 deaths a week and NHS hospitals struggling to cope with Covid-19 patients. Now, that vaccine protection has been largely removed by Omicron, and we are back where we were in December 2020 facing a “tidal wave” of infections, hospitalisations, and deaths. This will quickly overwhelm the NHS. Although boosters will eventually reduce the numbers going into hospital and dying, this will take some time, probably until February 2022.

The loss of vaccine protection is bad enough, but Omicron is also frighteningly easy to catch. Although full details are not yet clear, it looks like only a small amount of virus entering your body is enough to infect you. This makes it very easy to catch Omicron from passers-by, people in the same room as you, and especially in the home from family members or guests. Schools and colleges will be super-spreaders of Omicron, as will be pubs, restaurants, clubs, cinemas, theatres, and other leisure settings.

BuDS strongly urges everyone, and particularly disabled and clinically vulnerable people, to take extreme care not to catch Omicron. It is absolutely clear that if you have a ‘normal Christmas’, there is a very high chance that you WILL catch Omicron. For more information, please see our weekly risk assessments linked below.


 

FINALLY

Please share this article on social media, but always credit BuDS. If you need help or support or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.


 

MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about the Omicron variant, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/omicron-update-2/

To read our weekly risk assessment posts, and learn more about how to protect yourself, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-covid-19/risk-assessments/

To learn more about our BuDDies scheme, which can support you if you are isolated or frightened, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/about-buds-buddies/