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UK COVID-19 vaccine pledge faces logistical challenges

The public has been assured more sites, mobile units and pop-ups would be set up across the country to fulfil the vaccination pledge ahead of the original deadline of 31 January 2022.

In the wake of rising Omicron cases, the UK government has pledged that boosters will be offered to all over-18s by the end of December 2021, cutting short their initial deadline of 31 January 2022. This has led to the PM and the NHS appealing for volunteers to help administer jabs and run vaccination centres.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard are calling for “tens of thousands” of trained volunteers to “join the national mission” and support the booster deployment.

According to the BBC, Number 10 has said that hundreds more sites, mobile units and pop-ups would be set up across the country including at football stadiums, shopping centres and racecourses in the next week.

On the morning of Monday 13 December 2021, the NHS website crashed as tens of thousands of people attempted to log on and book their COVID-19 booster jab. This is the second time that the website has crashed, following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday 12 December of the vaccine pledge. People are also facing difficulties with ordering lateral flow tests as these are no longer available via the Government website.

Long queues are now forming outside walk-in clinics across England as many people rush to receive their booster. Dr Jess Harvey, from Shropshire, has encouraged people who are frustrated with long waiting times in clinics and on booking websites to be patient as “there is an increased capacity that’s going to be created”.

As it stands, there are nearly 3,000 vaccine sites across the country run by over 90,000 volunteers. The UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) estimates that the current number of daily Omicron infections is around 200,000, according to Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.

There are now 4,713 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, a number that is rapidly increasing. Of these cases, there are ten people, aged between 18 and 85, being hospitalised due to the effects of the variant.