UK Covid live: Sajid Javid implies new restrictions will be abandoned if Omicron no more dangerous than Delta

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Head teachers welcomed the government’s announcement that children aged 12-15 will be invited for a second Covid jab, but expressed concern about capacity after problems and delays during the first round of vaccinations.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

We strongly urge the government to ensure that the health service has in place the capacity to deliver this commitment.

The programme to provide a first dose of the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds has been beset with delays because the health teams responsible for going into schools and delivering the vaccines clearly have not had sufficient resources to be able to do this at the scale and speed required.

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The NHS Confederation has welcomed the massive expansion of the booster rollout – but warned that GPs and their teams who will play a key role in the delivery of third jabs are already very busy dispensing winter flu jabs and dealing with record numbers of patients seeking care.

Ruth Rankine, the organisation’s director of primary care, said:

The booster vaccine will offer people significant extra protection against Covid-19 and NHS leaders and staff will do all they can to ensure those eligible for booster jabs get them. But this is a significant expansion that adds to the complexity of an already challenging programme, so we would encourage the government to support front-line teams to play a critical role in ensuring the public get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Rankine stopped short of saying that finite capacity in general practice might slow the pace of the now-shortened booster programme. But GPs say that they are currently facing unprecedented demand for advice and treatment for all sorts of ailments, and are still dispensing many winter flu jabs. However, in England at least, many more pharmacies are now delivering boosters – 1,100 of the 2,600 vaccination sites are pharmacies – than when second Covid jabs were rolled out, and that has significantly increased overall capacity.

Will there be enough vaccines available to administer to the many millions of people who are now suddenly eligible? Rankine asked ministers and NHS leaders to ensure there is. While vaccinators are not reporting any shortages just now, today’s announcement will mean that increased supplies are needed.

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