Boris Johnson has blamed a failure of people to come forward for booster jabs for the slow rollout of the programme, calling it “a demand issue”.
But the prime minister insisted there is adequate supply, saying: “It’s a demand issue. We really urge people to come and do it.”
Speaking in Northern Ireland, Mr Johnson again rejected pleas from NHS leaders to move now to the tougher Covid restrictions in his ‘Plan B’, insisting: “We’re sticking with our plan.”
He acknowledged case rates are “high” and are rising, after almost 50,000 new infections are recorded each day across the UK.
But he insisted they are “within the parameters of what the predictions were” from government advisers when the lifting of the lockdown was completed in the summer.
People aged over 50 and vulnerable group who received their second vaccination six months ago – and whose immunity is waning – are now eligible for a booster dose.
But, in stark contrast to the original jabs programme, GP surgeries are not involved and it has been left to the NHS to organise centrally, as it wrestles with a huge and growing patient backlog.
In the Commons, Labour warned the booster programme was “stalling” and that, at the current rate, it would not be completed until next March – long after the expected winter peak for infections.
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