Drakeford: All over-18s in Wales offered booster by end of year as Omicron surges across the UK

Wales will aim to offer all over-18s a booster vaccine by the end of the year, the First Minister has announced.

Mark Drakeford has said Wales will come into line with England after Boris Johnson announced all adults can have a third jab by the end of the year, as Omicron cases rise exponentially across the UK.

Two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are said to not be enough to protect people against the Omicron variant.

However, a third dose is said to significantly prevent serious illness.

At the moment, Wales is inoculating 20,000 people each day, but the First Minister says that "we need to double that and then we probably need to do another 20,000 a day on top of that."

But Mr Drakeford has admitted there are 'enormous practical issues' to reach that target, by having the premises to issue vaccines and the staff to inject them.

"We are relying on upon a workforce who have served us so incredibly well for over 20 months, but who are exhausted by that experience and we're about to ask them to do another enormous effort on our part," he said.

To keep up with 60,000 injections each day, the First Minister has said people may even need to get jabbed on Christmas Day to meet that target.

The UK Covid alert level was raised to Level 4, up from Level 3 on Sunday following the rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases.

Level 4 is described as “transmission is high or rising exponentially” and “social distancing should continue.”

Cases of Omicron are said to be doubling every two to three days in the UK and is more transmissible than previous variants.

In light of that, the First Minister has said anyone who is reluctant to get their booster should think about the "exhausted health professionals" who will be expected to care for them if they fall ill.

He has also not ruled out introducing further restrictions in Wales if the situation does not improve.

"If it is necessary to take actions to protect people's health in Wales, the Welsh Government will not shrink from that responsibility," he said.

In response to the booster programme announcement, the Royal College of Nursing agreed that the expansion is "the right things to do" here in Wales "due to the rapid spread of the new variant".

RCN Wales Director Helen Whyley said: "I am confident that nursing staff who are the driving force behind the delivery of the vaccination programme, will continue to do their best to battle this variant.

"However, the NHS in Wales is under immense pressure already, with a significant shortage in the nursing workforce. If the Welsh Government want the speed up the delivery of the vaccination program they have to take every step needed to slow the spread to ensure that services, staff and the public are protected."

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