Experts today claimed that Britain’s Covid booster vaccination drive is progressing quickly enough to keep winter cases under check, despite a flurry in requests to accelerate it.
Labour has again urged the Government to ‘turbo charge’ the NHS programme to 500,000 doses a day — nearly double the current average rate — to avoid hospitals becoming overrun this winter.
And Health Secretary Sajid Javid — who has already warned Christmas curbs may be on the cards if uptake does not pick up — has repeatedly urged all eligible adults to come forward for their third jab.
But despite a slow start to the rollout beset by bureaucratic hurdles and slow uptake, NHS medics and volunteers are now dishing out an average of 1.9million booster doses every week in the UK — up from around 1.2million in the first week of October.
SAGE advisers made unusually optimistic predictions that hospitalisations and cases would fall this winter even if the Government’s Plan B’ is implemented. If 1.3million boosters are distributed every week, it will be possible to implement the government’s ‘Plan B.
MailOnline today received independent experts who said that the current pace for rollout should be sufficient in order to keep the virus at bay.
MailOnline was told by Professor David Livermore (a microbiologist at University of East Anglia) that the rollout would reach most of the country’s most vulnerable adults in December at the current pace.
He said, “Any suggestion that Plan B should be moved to due to the slow rollout should be strongly resisted.”
At the current rate of 1.9million boosters a week, 23million people will have had their booster shot by Christmas Day — nearly three quarters of all 32million eligible adults.
Officials warn against complacency and urge Brits to book booster jabs as soon possible to ensure that the rollout continues on track.
NHS volunteers and medics now give out an average of 1.9million doses of booster doses per week in the UK. This is up from the 1.2million they gave in the first week.
SAGE models suggest that a weekly 1.3million hospitalization rollout would be sufficient to keep them below the April 2020 first peak. Next spring they are expected increase, even with normal mixing this Christmas without restrictions (top left).
SAGE models predicted that the combination vaccination-acquired immunity, natural protection would suffice to keep hospital rates below the levels of the second wave. Even in the most pessimistic scenarios of the group, they estimated that daily Covid hospital visits would not rise above 1,500. They would be below 1,000 in winter, according to more optimistic models. These charts were based on Warwick University modeling and show how quickly people return to pre-pandemic social contacts. It was based on booster doses of’sustained immune system’.
MailOnline was told by Professor Livermore: “Around seven to eight millions of the approximately 12 to 13 million.” [currently]The UK has provided boosters to eligible individuals who were eligible. I don’t see any reason for concern.
“Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom are in Plan B with continuing mask mandates and Covid passports for nightclubs. Their Covid rates are not different from England’s, which has these restrictions.
He stated, “This strongly suggests that Plan B amounts inconveniencing people to no useful effect.”
Booster jabs for people over 50, those with a medical condition or who have received their second dose less than six months ago are now available.
The UK has already seen an increase in the number of cases, with older age groups seeing a decrease. Experts expect that death and hospitalisations will increase if this trend continues.
Professor Paul Hunter, a University of East Anglia infectious disease expert, said that he is happy that the NHS has now taken over the programme following a slow initial rollout.
MailOnline was informed by him that he believes the booster dose is extraordinarily effective in preventing symptomatic infections, hospitalisations and death. This is in addition to the protection provided by the earlier two-dose schedule.
“So for each booster dose given that will lower risk to the individual, and reduce pressure upon the NHS.
“The campaign’s start was slower than we would prefer, but it appears to have picked-up a bit recently.
Booster doses are generally slower than the first course because people feel less afraid about the disease.
“The UK must make it as easy as possible for people to get their booster doses, manage the system to avoid long lines and get the message across strongly.
Adults who are eligible can now book their booster appointments up to five months after their second dose. This means that they can get the third jab exactly six years after their last.
The Government uses models to guide its policy. They predict that hospital admissions will not fall below the April 2020 peak or January 2020 peak, even in the most pessimistic scenario. As long as the booster programme is maintained at 1.3million, they will not drop below this level.
SAGE member Professor John Edmunds — one of the scientists behind the models — said the slow increase in hospitalisations could be ‘plugged’ by the booster programme.
The models show admissions declining over Christmas, before showing a slight increase in spring. This is dependent on how long-lasting the boosters are.
MailOnline was told by he: “Many of the models suggest there may be a higher number of cases in spring. It is because of the waning immunity in older individuals and gradual return to normality.
“The booster program fills that gap. If you look at the document that we submitted a few weeks ago, we also looked at boosting everyone — well 90 per cent of them — six months after their second dose, rather than just those over 50.
“Our model suggested it would make an enormous difference and could avert (or delay) any further upswing.”
Despite reasons to be optimistic, MPs are still calling for the rollout speeded up.
Rosena Allin Khan, Labour’s shadow health minister, said to the Commons that the Government had ‘just not got a handle on Covid going in the busiest season of our NHS’. This was despite having the winter plan B. She also suggested that the UK should turbo charge vaccine boosters.
Dr Allin-Khan, who is also a doctor at St George’s Hospital, said: ‘On current trends we won’t complete the booster programme until spring 2022. The Government should get on top of things and aim to provide 500,000 boosters each day. The current figures are below 300,000.
She also spoke about problems with current vaccine rollout, saying that local residents are contacting her to tell us they can’t get boosters.
“One elderly lady in her 70s with underlying health issues called 119 to find out she was not eligible for a booster.
“She finally booked one for December, but she had to rely upon her daughter to book it for her because she doesn’t use the internet. The system doesn’t work.
She said that the Government had given a November 1 deadline to give booster jabs to all residents of care homes.
“Right now, only 23 percent of Leicester’s care home residents have had their booster jab. The picture across the country is extremely patchy.”
Maggie Throup, the vaccines minister, called the Commons to make the call. She told the Commons that more than 650,000 children aged 12-15 years old have received a Covid jab and that eight million people across the UK have received a booster.
Ms Throup stated that more than 650,000 12- to 15-year olds had been vaccinated’since September’.
“We are also rapidly launching our booster programme to give people maximum protection over winter and reduce pressures on NHS,” she added. Eight million people in the UK have now received the vital protection that a booster dose provides.
Ms. Throup also discussed the effort to provide flu jabs to people who had low levels of the virus’s circulation last year because of lockdown.
She stated, “As a consequence, we may see lower levels population immunity against flu and more strains of influenza in circulation this winter.”
“To combat this, a record 35.5 million people are eligible for a free flu shot this year. This gives us another way to keep our country safe.
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pressed the Government on vaccinating teenagers, saying: ‘One of the reasons… why we are behind other European countries when it comes to vaccinating teenagers is because the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) didn’t give its decision until September, whereas France was able to start vaccinating before the summer holiday.’
Ms Throup was also questioned about mandatory jabs. Mr Hunt said he would support it ‘if the Government brought the measure to the House.
Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, made an announcement that mandatory vaccinations will be made for NHS workers in the future.