UK hopes to expand omicron vaccination

The independent body that advises the British government on the distribution of coronavirus vaccines is likely to decide on Monday whether to expand the vaccination program to younger age groups after the discovery of the new variant of Omicron.

The Government of Great Britain has asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) to consider whether the situation calls for expanding the vaccination program to include millions more under the age of 40 and reducing the period for receiving a third dose.

Professor Anthony Harnden, JCVI vice president, told the BBC that it was “really important that we achieve high levels of immunity in the population” should the transmissibility of the omicron variant increase or reduce vaccine protection.

The expected announcement comes after the Scottish government announced the discovery of six infections of the omicron variant in Scotland, bringing the total number of cases to nine in the UK.

On Monday, the Scottish government said it had asked public health authorities to increase contact tracing for all of these cases.

Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said not all cases were linked to travel to countries in South Africa, the region where the new variant was first identified.

“This suggests that some transmission of this species has occurred in Scotland beforehand,” he told a news conference.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated on Saturday that “targeted and preventive measures” were needed in England.

Other countries in the UK have put in place stricter rules in recent months after most lockdown restrictions were lifted.

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