Military chiefs to mobilise 1,000 troops to aid jab campaign
Vaccines: Professor says vulnerable may need fourth jab
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The move comes as the Government said vaccination uptake had shot up in the run-up to Christmas, with first doses increasing by 46 percent in England, and second doses by 39 percent. And the vaccine drive continued unabated on Christmas Day with queues at many pharmacies. Hospitals face increasing staff shortages due to the spread of the Omicron variant, which has left vaccine centres struggling to meet targets and deliveries delayed.
Some 750 troops have already been deployed as part of Operation Rescript, the military programme involving personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army.
More than 250 are currently supporting the vaccine rollout in Scotland and 175 in Wales. But now an additional 1,000 troops will inflate the overall deployment to almost 2,000, following guidance to military chiefs that the operation be seen as a national priority.
These include Royal Marines from 40 Commando, tasked with operating centres in the South West, and soldiers from Bulford Camp in Wiltshire, Colchester Garrison in Essex and Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire.
They are being joined by an additional 250 soldiers from the Royal Logistics Corp, who have had Christmas leave cancelled and will help to deliver vaccines as the NHS opens extra “pop-up” stations to meet its new one million jabs a day target.
The Ministry of Defence also confirmed the return of Brigadier Phil Prosser, who commands the Army’s 101 Logistic Brigade and led soldiers distributing Covid vaccines across the country last winter.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has made it clear that the military will provide all the support it can with Navy and RAF medics joining the operation.
He said: “We have rapidly mobilised Service personnel to work alongside our dedicated health services to accelerate the vaccine booster programme.
“Our Armed Forces will help to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible.”
The Department of Health said it administered 221,564 first doses in the week of December 15-21 in England, a 46 percent increase from the previous week, and 279,112
second doses, a 39 percent jump.
In England, there was an 85 percent increase in first doses in people aged 18 to 24 and a 71 percent increase in first doses among people aged 25 to 30. The same week also saw more over 60s have a first dose than any seven-day period since early June.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “It has been excellent to see a recent surge in first and second jabs.
“Those initial jabs lay the foundation for the booster jab to protect against Omicron – two doses is not enough and you need to build protection jab by jab.”
NHS England thanked health service staff who worked on Christmas Day.
In a tweet, the health services said: “From vaccinators to volunteers, porters to paramedics, midwives to mental health practitioners, and all other essential workers – thank you to everyone who is working over the festive period!”
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