‘Book a booster jab to protect Islanders’

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A government insider said that high-level discussions were being held to determine whether the booster programme could be sped up so all adults could be offered a booster before 31 December, as concerns over the Omicron variant grow.

The move, if approved by ministers, could be publicly announced later this week.

The new drive to get more people protected has been backed by one of the first people to receive a Covid vaccine in Jersey as the Island marked the one-year anniversary of the first jab being administered.

Beryl Taylor, who lives at Cheval Roc Residential and Nursing Home, said: ‘The only thing I can think of that gives us the best protection against Covid-19 is this vaccine. I hate injections but the reason I have them is because I know it keeps people safe.

‘I am extremely glad to have had my first vaccine one year ago and now my booster vaccine, and would like to encourage everyone to protect one another.’

Dr Ivan Muscat, deputy medical officer of health, said eligible Islanders should ‘act now before we see the effects of Omicron in Jersey’. He added that the local booster programme was under ‘constant review’ and he welcomed the news that England would offer a third jab to all over-18s this year.

He said: ‘Being completely up to date with your vaccination programme, which now includes a booster dose of the vaccine, is absolutely vital in protecting against a new wave of illness and hospitalisations and ensuring we are better able to preserve our current way of life.

‘It must be emphasised that if you are eligible for a booster, you must have this to be protected against Omicron. The current estimates are that the booster increases vaccine efficacy against infection due to Omicron to between 70% and 75% early on. The current estimates also find that a full two-dose vaccination course alone is less effective against symptomatic disease with Omicron than with the original strain of Covid-19 or the Delta variant.

‘The rate of waning is unknown at the moment. Protection by the booster against severe disease is likely to be higher but this has yet to be confirmed.

‘While Islanders over the age of 40 who are unvaccinated or not boosted are at highest risk of hospitalisation, Islanders under 40 who are unvaccinated or not boosted are still very much at risk of illness, of spreading the virus in the community and of suffering from complications of Long Covid.

‘If you are aged 30 years or over, you can book your Covid-19 booster now. I urge anyone in this age group, who has not booked, to act now before we see the effects of Omicron in Jersey.’

In yesterday’s States sitting, Health Minister Richard Renouf said the Island had enough lateral-flow tests.

His comments came after it was announced that the UK government had suspended online applications for lateral-flow tests to allow it to fulfil a high number of existing orders.

In the States yesterday, Senator Kristina Moore asked Deputy Renouf whether Jersey was in a similar position.

In response, he said: ‘I have been to the warehouse where we have an ample supply of these tests and we have no issues around provisioning supply.’

And Chief Minister John Le Fondré told Members that he had no immediate concerns about capacity at the Hospital following a recent spike in cases.

He said: ‘Capacity at the Hospital is fine. I have had every assurance that the Hospital is fully capable of coping with the numbers they are having at the moment and the numbers being projected.’

According to the latest statistics, compiled on 5 December, a total of 192,065 vaccinations had been given – 80,282 first doses, 75,778 second doses and 36,005 third doses.

Of those within the 18-29 age group, 10,775 have received a first dose, with 30% not having had a jab. Almost all Islanders aged 55 and upwards have received their first dose.

In response to the pandemic, States Members have also been urged to support a proposition which would lead to a reduced uplift in the rate of alcohol duty. The proposals are designed to support the hospitality industry, which has faced significant challenges since the onset of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, regulations which allow less-qualified care workers to carry out tasks normally performed by more senior colleagues have been reintroduced following staff shortages at some residential homes.

Environment Minister John Young has signed a Ministerial Decision enacting the change after some care staff were either infected with Covid-19 or were confirmed as direct contacts of someone testing positive.

Under the rules, care providers must first seek authorisation to use less-qualified staff. The provision lasts for up to a month at a time. They must also show evidence to demonstrate a lack of staff each time they apply for the measure. Employers will still need to ensure all of their workforce has been DBS-checked.

In a statement, Deputy Young said: ‘I have been advised by the Jersey Care Commission that there are a small number of care homes and providers experiencing staff shortages, caused by Covid-19.’

He added: ‘The reinstatement of this order will help to ensure that vulnerable Islanders continue to receive the care they need and that the care suppliers are not faced with potential fines for operating outside the law. We need to keep our care homes as close to fully operational as possible but, of course, with measures in place to ensure they can be run safely.’

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