Boris Johnson is to hold a Covid-19 press conference with Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Physician Professor Chris Whitty at 15.00, Downing Street has said.
Health authorities have warned of “uneven months ahead” as they expanded the Covid-19 booster program to include healthy adults over the age of 40.
Ministers across the UK have accepted a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) that the booster program should be extended to people aged 40 to 49.
The second dose for 16- and 17-year-olds has also been approved after JCVI said this group should be offered a second Pfizer / BioNTech plug 12 weeks after receiving the first.
JCVI said the expansion of the booster campaign and the offer of another jab for 16- and 17-year-olds will “help expand our protection into 2022”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to get their booster to get the extra level of protection that will make “the whole difference for winter, for Christmas”.
And England’s Vice-Professor Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said everyone has a role to play in helping Britain have “as safe and uninterrupted a winter as possible”.
Speaking at a visit to a medical center in East London, Mr Johnson said: “What is happening is that if you can get your booster, then your immunity goes all the way back to 95%.
So far, we’re got 75% of everyone over 70 who gets a booster, there’s a huge number of people, but it’s the additional 25% that will make all the difference for winter, for Christmas, for our plans going forward, because it is the extra level of protection that we really need.
“So the message is: everyone over 70, come forward, get your booster; everyone over 50, come forward and get your booster now; in the next week or so, everyone over 40 too, come forward and get your booster.”
Prof Van-Tam told a Downing Street press briefing: “I think for the Christmas and winter period we can expect respiratory viruses to be present and we are particularly concerned that the flu will come back and increase our problems, and it can be quite a few uneven months ahead.
“But everyone has a key role to play in achieving as safe and undisturbed a winter as possible.
“Wear face clothing in crowded places, if practicable, increase indoor ventilation whenever you can, make sure you are vaccinated, and make sure, like any other medicine, to complete the procedure.
“And when you’re called to your booster, get ahead at a pace so that we, as the whole of the UK, can move on and finish this job.”
He added: “I believe that if the booster program succeeds and with very high uptake, we can massively reduce the worry of hospitalization and deaths due to Covid at Christmas and the rest of this winter for millions of people.”
A new study highlighted how boosters can significantly increase people’s protection against having a symptomatic case of Covid-19.
Two weeks after receiving their booster, adults over 50 had at least 93% reduced risk of developing a symptomatic case of Covid-19, according to a study by the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).
Protection against more serious illness and death is expected to be even higher.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunization for JCVI, said: “Booster dose significantly strengthens existing protection and will prolong the duration of this protection against serious illness.
“We therefore encourage people who are eligible for a booster to step forward and get your booster and maximize your protection.”
He added: “Booster vaccine doses in more vulnerable adults and other vaccine doses in 16- to 17-year-olds are important ways to increase our protection against Covid-19 infection and serious illness.
“These vaccinations will also help extend our protection into 2022.”
The NHS has been asked to prepare to offer those eligible a booster vaccine as soon as possible.
So far, about 12.6 million people have had a third Covid-19 jab.
JCVI said people should be offered Pfizer or Moderna jab as a booster, no matter what vaccine they originally had.
The booster will be offered sewn months after the second vaccine was given, with people able to book their time after five months.
Health and Social Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement: “Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout has been a phenomenal success that has saved countless lives, reduced pressure on the NHS and helped us stop the spread of the virus.
“We are expanding the program further, and today I have accepted the advice of the independent experts at JCVI to extend the extra offer of a booster jab to people aged 40 and over and offer a second dose of a vaccine to all young people aged 16 to 17 as part of the primary vaccination schedule.
“All four parts of the UK intend to follow JCVI’s advice.
“I have asked the NHS to prepare to offer those eligible a vaccine as soon as possible.”
He added: “JCVI will continuously investigate whether the booster program should be extended to all people under the age of 40, and I look forward to receiving their advice in due course.”
Prof Lim said it was not yet clear if the under 40s would need a booster.
He told the Downing Street briefing: “It may very well be that adults under the age of 40 may require a booster dose or a third dose at a time we do not know if that is certainly the case yet.
“We look very closely at the data all the time, and should there be enough signal to justify a third dose, then a booster dose for this age group, then we will definitely announce it and advise it accordingly.”
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the announcement “strengthens our ability to ensure that people are protected against Covid-19 and save lives”.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said it was up to the public whether new controls should be introduced in the winter months.
Sir. Dowden said the vaccination program provides the best assurance that additional Covid-19 restrictions will not be necessary over Christmas.
The Conservative Party chairman told Sky News: “It’s in our hands. If you get the booster when the call comes, it’s the biggest defensive wall we have against Covid.”