Scientists in the UK have advised that all adults should now be included in the COVID-19 booster jab campaign in the wake of the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new variant is causing worry around the world due to the high number of mutations it has, which scientists warn could have implications for not only transmissibility but also vaccine effectiveness.
Wei Shen Lim, chairman of a UK government sub-committee on vaccinations, said at a press briefing on Monday that all adults aged 18-34 should now be included in the booster programme.
At the same meeting, Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, emphasised that regarding vaccines it “is not all doom and gloom at this stage”.
Pressing the point that scientists don’t yet have enough data to make clear determinations about the implications of the new variant, he said: “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 in preventing severe disease.”
Professor Lim also recommended those who are severely immunocompromised should be given a fourth dose of a COVID vaccine, while children aged 12 to 15 should be given a second one.
The booster dose was previously just for those over the age of 40 in the UK, except for the immunocompromised.
The scientists urged that boosters should now be offered three months rather than six months after the second dose of the vaccine.
The recommendations come as countries around the world respond to the spread of Omicron.
The UK for its part has introduced mask mandates, as well as new travel restrictions in a bid to slow the variant’s spread.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said he accepted the recommendations from the scientific advisors given earlier on Monday.
He told the British parliament on Monday there had been five confirmed cases and six in Scotland.
“We expect cases to rise over the coming days,” he said.