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Covid booster advice should come imminently, says UK minister

Reuters . London
28 Nov 2021 15:43:35 | Update: 28 Nov 2021 15:43:35
Covid booster advice should come imminently, says UK minister
Britain's Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid speaks during the Royal Foundation's Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium in London, Britain November 25, 2021. -- Reuters photo

Britain's health minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on whether the government can broaden a booster shot programme to try to weaken the impact of the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant.

Britain announced new measures on Saturday to try to slow the spread of the variant, toughening rules for people arriving in the country and ordering the use of face masks in retail settings and on transport. 

But ministers also want to ramp up the offer of booster jabs, saying even if vaccines prove to be less effective against Omicron, they should offer better protection against it and reduce the number of hospitalisations 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 resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year Covid-19 pandemic.

Britain has confirmed two cases of the new variant, and Javid said the new measures were needed to buy time for experts to try to understand more about Omicron, which may, or may not, make vaccines less effective.

"There is reason to think that it may, and I stress the word may..., turn out to make our vaccines less effective, it may not, we just don't know enough," he said.

"The point is the vaccines are still going to give you more protection than otherwise, that is why the booster programme is so important."