Mr Johnson warns 'too many' double-jabbed Brits in hospital with Covid

Boris Johnson warns ‘too many’ fully-vaccinated elderly Britons are ending up in hospital with Covid as PM urges nation to get their booster vaccine

  • Prime Minister said ‘too many’ double-jabbed old people are being hospitalised
  • He urged people to come forward for boosters which offer 95% more protection
  • Dr Mike Tildesley said that Covid, like flu, would continue circulating every year
  • He warned this would mean people’s immunity may need to be topped up again
  • Former jabs minister Nadhim Zahawi said boosters may be dished out annually
  • Some four in ten eligible Britons are still yet to receive their boosters, however 

Too many double-jabbed Britons are being hospitalised with Covid, Boris Johnson warned today as he urged people to come forward for booster doses.

He said the protection offered by the first two jabs — which wanes after six months — is leading to ‘too many elderly people getting into hospital’.

But the Prime Minister said the 10million boosters that have been dished out so far are ‘very effective’ and give people 95 per cent more protection than two doses alone.

Mr Johnson urged everyone eligible — including over-50s, health and social care workers and over-16s with underlying health conditions — to come forward for the jab six months after their second dose.  

It comes as a prominent Government adviser today hinted boosters could be needed every winter. 

And former vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi also hinted the jabs will be needed annually, as the virus moves to the background and the UK enters an endemic. 

But other experts have said that a never-ending cycle of boosters might not be needed because Covid will one day ‘fade into the background’.

The sluggish booster roll out has already fallen into disarray with millions of vulnerable Britons left struggling to get appointments. Ministers have blamed the low uptake on people failing to come forward.

But elderly patients say they are unable to book appointments over the phone and don’t know how to work the online system. 

Ministers have tried to speed up the roll out today by allowing people to book their jab a month before they become eligible.   

Boris Johnson (pictured today at Hexham General Hospital with Marion Dickson, an executive director for Northumbria Healthcare) said the protection offered by the first two jabs — which wanes after six months — is leading to ‘too many elderly people getting into hospital’

The above graph shows the pace of the current booster drive with the number of doses given out daily (yellow bars) and the total number administered (green line). There are calls for the pace to be quickened to avoid millions of vulnerable adults being left unprotected

The Office for National Statistics graph shows hospital admission rates for each age group in England as a percentage compared to the numbers hospitalised on January 17 (grey dotted line). Admissions were highest among older age groups on October 31, but comparatively lower than the mid-January peak. Among those aged 45 to 54-year-olds, admissions were almost four times lower than their mid-January peak, while they were nearly six times lower among those aged 85 and over. Despite admissions being 35 per cent higher than January among five to 14-year-olds, they were the lowest across all age groups

Brian Bull and his partner Jennifer still have not received their boosters because of confusing instructions on the NHS website.

Mr Bull, 83, has been due for his jab for nearly a month but has been turned away by a clinic near his home in Appleby, Cumbria, every time he goes to it. 

He added: ‘The NHS website said there was a walk-in centre at Penrith. We drove the 14 miles only for the receptionist to say she knew nothing about it.’

They were directed to a rugby club but ‘they weren’t holding sessions that day’. 

He added: ‘We see so many advertisements from the NHS telling us to get our boosters, but it’s very hard to actually do it.’

And the rollout has been a ‘shambles’, said a retired police officer forced to go in person to his West Yorkshire GP to book his booster.

Keith Woodland, 74, who has an irregular heartbeat, was unable to book after he got an NHS text telling him to get a third jab. 

‘After calling 119 I tried again but the system was down. I was told the surgery might have the wrong details about me.’ 

He said: ‘It’s a shambles. All these senior politicians who say people aren’t booking jabs – when we can’t do it anyway.’

Speaking today during a visit to a Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m here to look at what we’re doing to encourage people to get their booster jabs and that is the single most important thing that the Government can do at the present time.

‘Unfortunately, what you’ve got at the moment is a situation in which the waning of the original two jabs is starting to see too many elderly people getting into hospital.

‘Sadly, the jabs do wane. We’ve done 10million booster jabs already and it’s a very effective thing.

‘It’s a wonderful thing, people get 95 per cent more protection, so I’m encouraging everybody today to go online if you’ve gone over five months, you can go online and book.’

From today, eligible Britons can book their booster jabs from five months after their second dose, so they can have an appointment at the six-month point.

Experts have said this is the ‘sweet spot’ for increasing immunity against the virus, as this is when protection from the jabs wanes.   

But vaccine manufacturers have turned their attentions to making new, variant-resistant jabs that do not see their effectiveness drop quite as sharp as the current crop.

Asked whether he would heed calls from some public health officials on the need for action, Mr Johnson said he is often presented with ‘different scientific advice and different scientists say different things’, adding ‘we study the data every day, we have reviews with NHS chiefs every day’.

He added: ‘The key thing you want to do is to reduce those pressures, which are building, on the A&Es, on beds, by encouraging people, particularly the over-50s, to come forward and get your booster jab.’

Some medics, scientists and Labour last month called for the Government to move to Plan B  — implementing mandatory face masks, work from home guidance and vaccine passports — to bring infections, hospitalisations and deaths down.

But ministers have resisted calls and with cases trending downwards over the two weeks, some modellers and experts have said cases have peaked for the year.

But there are calls for the booster rollout — a key part of Plan A, along with the vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds — to be sped up. 

Some 300,000 boosters are being rolled out every day on average, although there are calls for 500,000 top-up doses per day, so people are protected in time ahead of the festive period.

Meanwhile, Dr Mike Tildesley, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) — an influential sub-committee of SAGE, told Sky News today people may need extra shots every year. 

Dr Mike Tildesley said boosters could be rolled out every year

Asked whether the booster programme was going at the right pace, he said it was ‘going in the right direction, but there clearly is work to do for the people over 50, for vulnerable adults’.

He added: ‘Immunity will be starting to wane from the second jab so it is really important that that acceleration continues and hopefully we get as many people protected as possible as we move into the colder months.’

Quizzed about whether the UK could face a lockdown this winter he said it was a ‘long way away’

But he added that other measures might be needed if there is not ‘good immunity across the population’.

He said: ‘I would hope that, with a very successful vaccination campaign, the idea of a winter lockdown is a long way away.

Ministers today opened appointments up early to allow people to book their third dose before they became eligible. There was a five-minute queue this morning

Britain’s Covid crisis has PEAKED with cases falling ‘quickly’ and idea of No10 having to impose another winter lockdown is a ‘long way away’, top scientists claim 

Britain’s third wave of Covid has already peaked and hospitalisations and deaths should also soon fall, scientists insisted today. 

In the latest sign the country may be past the worst of the pandemic, cases in the UK dropped by a fifth to 30,305 yesterday — down from 38,009 the week prior. 

One of the Government’s pandemic advisers claimed No10 was a ‘long way away’ from having to consider a winter lockdown based on the current promising data, despite Boris Johnson facing calls to act tougher and resort to his Plan B strategy of face masks and WFH guidance.  

However, experts have warned the success of the ongoing Covid vaccine booster programme was vital to how the country fares in the coming months.  

Professor Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said Covid could one day ‘fade into the background’ similar to colds and the flu in the future from the booster drive, which experts have hinted will become an annual programme. 

Professor Naismith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In terms of cases we certainly appear now to be going down quite quickly and that’s certainly what we would hope.

‘The number of hospital admissions is still high, over a 1,000 a day, and the number of deaths is tragically still quite high with just over a 1,000 a week.’

But he added: ‘Of course, as cases fall we would expect the other two things to fall in time.’ 

‘But it is certainly true that if we don’t get good immunity across the population, there may need to be perhaps further measures taken.

‘So it’s really important that we encourage people to come forward when eligible to take those booster jabs.’

And Professor Peter Openshaw, a SAGE adviser on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said the need for boosters had become ‘very clear’.

He told Times Radio: ‘We don’t know how long a vaccine is going to last until we’ve had sufficient time to watch the immunity drifting downwards and I think that’s something which has become very clear recently is that these vaccines don’t appear to be forever – they do provide a lot of protection, but they have to be boosted.’

But Professor James Naismith of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and a biologist at Oxford University suggested boosters would not be necessary in years to come because Covid will become so mild.

Echoing what many other experts have predicted, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I suspect it [Covid] will fade back into the background as a serious disease.’

More than 30million over-50s, vulnerable adults, and health and social care workers are eligible for a third dose of the Covid vaccine.

They can only come forward for one six months after they had their second.

Until today, they had to wait on a call or letter from the NHS confirming that they were now eligible.

However, the Department of Health confirmed today that people can now book their third dose a month in advance. 

People can also book by calling 119 or visit one of the hundreds of walk-in sites across the country without an appointment   

Some 10million booster shots have already been dished out, but official figures show that by this time six months ago 16million had already got their second jab.

At the current rate of 300,000 boosters being rolled out every day, nearly 10million at-risk Britons will still be left unprotected over the festive period.

There are currently no plans to expand the roll out to younger age groups, or to repeat it next year. 

Last night the Labour party wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to warn him he has allowed the ‘wall of defence to crumble’, risking another national lockdown.

They are calling for urgent action to speed up booster and children’s jabs, such as recalling volunteers and retired healthcare workers and using more community pharmacies.

Over-50s said yesterday they were spending hours on the phone to GPs trying to get appointments, with one women only getting through on her 92nd try.

Red tape is also hampering the roll out, with another 94-year-old woman turned away from a jab centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, because she arrived a day early.

Patients are being encouraged to use the NHS walk-in finder for their nearest centre, supposed to be within ten miles.

But some have been told they must travel tens of miles to get their vaccine as many GP surgeries and pharmacies do not offer top-up jabs.

Pensioners on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent were advised by the NHS to go to Southend in Essex, a 128-mile round-trip, for their third dose as local centres do not have supply.

MPs are being bombarded with requests for help from constituents.

Writing to Mr Javid, Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Nobody wants to see any more Boris Johnson lockdowns so getting a grip of the stumbling vaccination programme is urgent for ministers.

‘The booster campaign has been slow getting off the ground, the third doses for immunocompromised branded ‘chaotic’, and there are still pockets of the country with worrying below-average rates of second dose.

‘Tory complacency has allowed the wall of defence to crumble.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We are working at speed to get people boosted and our vaccination programme is making great progress.’

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