The return of 'Big Phil' Prosser and soldiers giving jabs

The return of Brigadier Phil Prosser, soldiers giving jabs, and calls for 25,000 volunteers… so where are the GPs? MOD releases plan to help NHS jab a MILLION people a day as union begs GPs to get involved to save the NHS

  • The Army has been drafted in to help meet target of offering all adults a booster jab by the end of the year
  • But there will be no return of a Dad’s Army yet, despite hundreds of retired medics called upon last winter
  • But NHS was already short of thousands of volunteers before booster drive deadline was brought forward
  • And less hospital hubs and mass vaccination centres are helping with the drive this time around 
  • The GP union wrote to thousands of doctors urging them to get involved, warning the drive needs their help
  • Mr Johnson said top-up jabs would have to be prioritised over other care, such as hip and knee operations

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Hundreds of soldiers are being deployed to accelerate the UK’s Covid booster rollout to hit a million jabs a day, it emerged today as top doctors begged more GPs to get involved to protect the NHS from an Omicron crisis. 

The Army has been drafted in to help meet Boris Johnson’s bold ambition of offering all adults a top-up jab by the end of the year, amid concerns even tougher restrictions may be necessary if the roll-out goes too slowly.

The Ministry of Defence today announced that 750 soldiers, led by Brigadier Phil Prosser who promised war-time tactics to scale up the vaccine programme last winter, are helping the NHS in England and Scotland to scale up the programme ‘at pace’. 

Meanwhile, the body representing GPs wrote to thousands of doctors urging them to get involved, warning the booster drive has no chance of suppressing the incoming Omicron wave without their help. 

The Royal College of GPs said: ‘We fully appreciate that any time vaccinating has a cost to other work, and has to be justified.’ In his televised 8pm booster jab message last night, Mr Johnson admitted top-up jabs would have to be prioritised over other care, dangling the threat of NHS pivoting back to focusing solely on Covid.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid today insisted cancer care wouldn’t be threatened but said non-urgent appointments and elective surgery may have to wait until the New Year.

A charity working alongside the NHS had already appealed for an extra 25,000 stewards before the Prime Minister’s pledge of offering third doses to all eligible adults by the end of 2021. They would be involved in managing queues at vaccine centres and transporting vulnerable patients. 

And Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, sent letters to vaccination volunteers at St John’s Ambulance over the weekend asking them to work more shifts. In his call to arms, he said: ‘It’s going to require a Herculean effort.’

But there will be no return of a Dad’s Army yet, despite hundreds of retired medics being called upon to help deliver the rollout last winter.  

The Prime Minister only promised to train up thousands of extra volunteer vaccinators to help scale up to 1million jabs every day, which NHS bosses have admitted will be ‘incredibly difficult’.  

Mr Johnson also made a loose pledge to open up more centres, but NHS chiefs have yet to confirm how many will be created. A third fewer mass clinics, set up in stadiums and museums, are operating now compared to in March, when the UK hit its highest daily total of 850,000. 

His announcement prompted fury over why the rollout was not ramped up earlier to avoid a mad scramble before Christmas. Labour argued it had been warning for weeks that the ‘wall of defence’ was crumbling.  

Chaos ensued today, with Britons desperate for boosters left waiting in five-hour queues, twenty-somethings turned away and the NHS booking system having crashed under the weight of tens of thousands wanting a jab. Some were told their closest clinic was 26 miles away. 

Sajid Javid has promised to ‘throw everything’ at the booster drive and the scheme will be open on Christmas Day to keep it going throughout the festive period, while opening hours will be extended to get clinics running earlier, later and seven days a week. 

As well as turning again to retired medics, other experts said the scheme could be sped up by slashing waiting times for observation after a jab.  

The Ministry of Defence today announced that 750 soldiers, led by Brigadier Phil Prosser (pictured at a press conference in January) who promised war-time tactics to scale up the vaccine programme last winter, are helping the NHS in England and Scotland to plan the rollout and administer vaccines and ‘at pace’

More than 100 army workers are currently supporting the vaccine rollout in Scotland, while 600 personnel have been made available to NHS England to administer vaccines

Pictured above is the current pace of the booster programme (green bars) and how it will have to ramp up to hit the million jabs a day target (red bars). NHS bosses warn scaling up the programme will be ‘incredibly difficult’

Figures show that a total of 23,124,829 – 40.2 per cent of people aged 12 and over in the UK – have now received a booster jab but the rollout will now need to rapidly increase in order to meet the target

Bringing in the Army to dish out vaccines 

Some 750 military personnel across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force will work with the health service to help boost the vaccine rollout, it was confirmed today. 

More than 100 army workers are currently supporting the vaccine rollout in Scotland, while 600 personnel have been made available to NHS England to administer vaccines.

Boris Johnson reveals first Briton has died from Omicron as he urges nation to ‘set aside idea’ that the variant is milder 

At least one British patient has died from the Omicron coronavirus variant, Boris Johnson revealed today. 

The Prime Minister said the new strain was also causing hospital admissions and the ‘best thing’ people could do was get their booster jab.

Mr Johnson warned against being complacent about the new strain amid claims by doctors in South Africa that it is milder than past variants.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Paddington, West London, he said: ‘Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.

‘So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’ 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the news underlined ‘the seriousness of the situation’.  

Around 50 soldiers will provide planning support to NHS England, with 41 deployed to NHS regions across England and 10 logistics experts based at the health service’s headquarters in London.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace 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 into arms as quickly as possible as we continue our efforts to support the UK’s response to the pandemic.’

Return of British Army officer to lead charge on boosters

The Ministry of Defence also confirmed the return of mod also confirmed return of Brigadier Phil Prosser.

The commander of the British Army’s 101 Logistic Brigade led soldiers distributing Covid vaccines across the country last winter. The Aldershot-based brigade, which includes logistical, engineering and medical units, was also called in to help distribute PPE like gloves, masks and gowns to NHS hospitals at the beginning of the Covid crisis.

Brig Prosser, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, said at the time his team is ‘used to complexity and building supply chains at speed, in the most arduous and challenging conditions’, noting the importance of getting the jabs off warehouse shelves and into arms. 

The married Welshman trained as a mechanical engineer and studied at Cranfield University before taking an MBA at the Open University. He previously served in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

According to his LinkedIn page is an ‘experienced leader’ who is skilled in crisis management, data analysis (and) risk’.

He is also a keen cyclist and describes himself as a ‘retired runner’ as well as a fan of the Scarlets rugby team, based in his native Llanelli.

The UK Covid alert level was raised from level 3 to level 4 after the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant 

Above is Britain’s daily vaccinations graph. It shows a lull in rolling out jabs over September and October, which opposition parties today branded as a missed opportunity for the country. Former Conservative ministers and the shadow health secretary have questioned why more was not being done to roll out the jabs in September

According to NHS data, many older age groups who have been eligible to get a Covid booster since September still have double digit percentage figures of people who are yet to get a third dose. Yesterday, the NHS online booking system for Covid boosters was opened up to the over 40s. 81 per cent of people aged 40-to-49 have yet to have a booster

NHS bosses today urged Britons desperate to get their Covid-19 booster jab to try again later today or tomorrow

The entire NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March on the back of the development. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services

Appeal for volunteers to help in ‘Herculean’ campaign

Retired medics are already returning to work to help with the rollout despite no official call to arms from the NHS yet, with grandfather Jed Sheerin helping at a vaccination centre and delivering vaccines to schools.

He told KentOnline: ‘Working [at Kent Community Health Foundation Trust at their Woodville centre in Gravesend] as a Covid vaccinator was an unforgettable experience.’ 

However, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, sent letters to St John’s Ambulance volunteers over the weekend, asking them to work more shifts.

Omicron now makes up 40% of all new Covid cases in London and will be dominant by TOMORROW 

Omicron makes up 40 per cent of all new Covid cases in London , it was revealed today as experts called for the return of controversial local lockdown curbs in the capital. 

Boris Johnson said the super mutant variant represents about four in 10 coronavirus infections in London — up from three in 10 at the weekend — and ‘tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases’. 

Only 3,137 Omicron infections have been confirmed by lab analysis across the UK, 1,239 of which were recorded yesterday, but the true figure will be many times more. Officials warn cases are doubling every two to three days. 

Mr Johnson also revealed today that at least one Briton has died from the variant, and at least 10 have been admitted to hospital.

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the strain is growing at a ‘phenomenal rate’ and officials warn there could be 1million infections per day by the end of the month. 

Official data show cases are growing by up to 48 per cent a week in the worst-hit boroughs of London, which include Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and City of London and Greenwich.

Meanwhile, the highest infection rates, where 0.7 per cent of the local population has tested positive in the past week, have been recorded in Sutton, Richmond upon Thames and Bromley. 

NHS leaders told MailOnline a lockdown in London may be needed if the rising cases translate into a hike in hospitalisations and deaths. 

He wrote: ‘The vaccination programme has succeeded in achieving levels of protection previously unimaginable. You were a huge part of this achievement but now we need your help again to deliver booster vaccinations at a real rate of knots.

‘It’s going to require a Herculean effort and I am asking you personally to be a part of it by undertaking vaccinator shifts as soon as you possibly can.

‘Through your efforts, St John Ambulance has so far helped countless people; please [help us] make sure we get the boosters delivered and save even more lives, protect our families, our communities, and our NHS.’

And St John’s Ambulance today issued an appeal for more volunteers and for already trained vaccination volunteers to help with the booster programme.

Adam Williams, the charity’s Head of Community Response, said: ‘If everyone who trained to vaccinate with St John steps forward now, even for just two six-hour shifts, we will have more than enough people to do everything that’s required of us over the next few weeks and help the nation get ahead of the Omicron variant.’

And Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, already warned last week that the health service needed thousands more volunteers to work as stewards at vaccine centres to meet the old end of January target.

She said the booster campaign needs at least 25,000 volunteers to move the vaccination programme forwards and at pace.  

Urging GPs to come forward to dish out boosters

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, have both urged doctors to help deliver booster jabs to ‘as many people as possible over the next few weeks’. 

The top medics said third doses are the ‘number one priority for the NHS’ and GPs are ‘essential’ to meeting the end of December target. 

They warned the spread of Omicron is ‘remarkable’, doubling every two to three days and will be dominant in the coming days.

The pair wrote: ‘Even with the contribution of our pharmacy colleagues and those working in mass vaccination and hospital-based clinics, without substantial help from GPs the current effort is not going to be sufficient to achieve our target of getting the majority of the population vaccinated in the next weeks.

‘There is no doubt that without the efforts of you and your teams, we would never have achieved mass delivery of the first two doses. 

‘Now we need the experience and expertise of general practice to intensify the vaccination effort once again if we are to have any hope of replicating, at even greater speed, a similar degree of public protection.’ 

Mr Javid this morning said hospitals can postpone elective surgery, such as hip and knee replacements until the new year if the move frees up resources to dish out more boosters. But he said urgent appointments, such as checks for people with cancer symptoms, would be ‘completely unaffected’ by the new mission. 

However, addressing the Commons this afternoon, he conceded some urgent appointments will be sacrificed. 

He told MPs: ‘We are redeploying NHS staff away from non-urgent services. This means that, for the next two weeks, all primary care services will focus on urgent clinical needs and vaccines. 

‘And some urgent appointments and elective surgeries may be postponed until the new year, while we prioritise getting people the booster.’

People queuing outside the Saint Thomas vaccination centre in Westminster as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces tougher Covid restrictions 

MANCHESTER (left) and SEVENOAKS, KENT (right): Britons queued up for boosters this morning after Boris Johnson called on all over-18s to get their top-up jabs

MILTON KEYNES (left) and SHEFFIELD (right): Britons queue to get their booster jabs after Boris Johnson expanded the drive last night

More centres… which will be open on Christmas Day 

Mr Johnson confirmed more vaccination centres would open, but no further details have emerged yet.

MailOnline can reveal, however, that a third fewer mass sites are open now compared to in April, at the height of the rollout.

And experts have called for them to be reopened and work at maximum capacity to ensure all adults have the chance to get boosted by the end of the month.  

The Adam Smith Institute thinktank’s head of research Matthew Lesh told MailOnline the new booster deadline of December 31 is ‘necessary to save lives, reduce pressure on the NHS and ensure there are no more lockdowns’.

‘We need to throw every effort possible at the endeavor,’ he said.

Mr Lesh said as many mass vaccination centres as possible should be reopened and should operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, so people can get jabbed ‘at the most convenient possible time’. 

He added: ‘Unlike a year ago, we have the capacity to avoid a harsh lockdown while not overwhelming the NHS or introducing new restrictions. Boosters are the golden bullet, the way to avoid misery and protect us all.’

No10 has also confirmed opening times at vaccine sites would be extended to ensure everyone has the chance to get a top-up jab. It also revealed today that Britons can get jabbed on Christmas Day itself if necessary. 

Asked if jabs will be offered in the UK on December 25th and Boxing Day, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said ‘vaccinations will continue to be offered throughout the Christmas period’ and if there is demand the NHS will ‘find a way to match it’. 

But former Cabinet minister David Davis joined a chorus of Labour MPs slamming the Government for failing to ramp up the booster drive earlier this year.

Mr Davis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We were always going to face a challenge [this winter], and if you ask the NHS how much of a challenge can we face they say very little. 

‘So, why didn’t we do all this in September?’

‘What actually happened from my memory was that the rate dropped to about 58,000 a day.’

He added: ‘The first time I heard a million jabs a day phrase was in September and, actually, that was the right time. 

‘If you look at it, we don’t have to guess anymore, look at last year the Covid infection rate took off in late September, and deaths took off in late October. All respiratory diseases get worse in the winter.

‘Why weren’t we doing this earlier? If this was so important, why weren’t we doing this in September?’

Could 15-minute wait after vaccinations be ditched?

Medics warned that ditching the 15-minute wait for patients after they are vaccinated would speed up the booster rollout. 

People are asked to wait for a period of observation to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction to the injection. It was introduced after two NHS staff suffered allergic reactions on the first day of the vaccine rollout last year. 

But Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, wrote on Twitter: ‘If the Government wants to increase the number of Covid-19 vaccinations, then the MHRA needs to urgently review the 15 minute waiting period after vaccination.

‘This substantially reduces the efficiency and throughput of vaccine clinics, as well as vaccinations for the housebound.’

The chief medical officers of the UK are understood to be reviewing whether the waiting time can safely be reduced or scrapped.

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