by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 16
December 2021
Explainer
14:00

Millions of adults can’t be boostered

The aim of jabbing everyone by the new year has been doomed from the start
by Tom Chivers
Credit: Getty

Britain has pinned its hopes on the booster drive protecting us from Omicron. Only minor non-pharmaceutical measures, including a request to work from home if possible and reinstatement of mandatory masks in some public spaces, are being put in place. Instead, the plan is to give the booster to every adult by the end of December.

Or is it? First, as has been widely reported, the NHS seems to disagree: health service leaders say the goal is only to offer the jab to everyone by December, and actually giving them will take until February.

But let’s assume Boris Johnson is right about his own policy, and that the goal is to get actual jabs in actual arms by the new year. The trouble is: by the Government’s own rules, that’s not possible.

You are allowed to get your booster if you had your second jab at least three months ago. You can book it two months after you get your second jab, but you can’t actually receive it for another month. 

So on 31 December, everyone who had their jab on or before 30 September would be allowed to get a booster. According to the Covid dashboard, 37 million adults had had their second jab in England by 30 September.

But according to the ONS, there are 44.5 million adults (over 18) in England. Based on data from the National Immunisation Service, NIMS, that figure is 50 million. Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor of statistics at the Open University who alerted me to this issue, says the true figure is likely somewhere in between.

So there are at least 7.5 million adults, and probably more, who can’t have their jab by the end of 31 December, even if it is logistically possible to do so, because the Government’s own rules say it is impossible. That’s between 15% and 25% of the adult population.

That figure is in fact too low, because you also can’t be boosted if you’ve had a positive PCR test in the last 28 days. At the moment there are probably well over a million people in that situation — there have been at least 40,000 positive tests a day every day for the last several months, which is about 1.1 million every 28 days. On Wednesday, the figure was almost 80,000, and I expect it to go up. It could easily be that four million or more people are ineligible for boosters by the end of December because they’ve had the virus recently.

To be fair to Johnson, he did say “eligible adults” in his address. But the adverts all say “every adult is now eligible”. That’s flatly not true. Even in the implausible situation that the booster race goes perfectly, we will still have up to a quarter of the adult population unboosted because the rules say they can’t be. And perhaps that’s the right thing to do! But it’s worth being aware of.

In a secondary point, amazingly, reinfections are currently not counted in the case data. The “About the data” page says: “If a person has more than one positive test, they are only counted as one case for all nations with the exception of Wales.”Robert Peston pointed this out in July, and said it meant we might be severely undercounting. That was not true at the time — fewer than 1% of cases were reinfections and it probably didn’t make much difference. But now, I expect, a decent fraction of new cases will be reinfections, given that the Omicron variant is spreading so quickly, and given that it seems perfectly capable of evading immunity in many cases. Since that fraction is only going to rise, this seems an obvious thing to change. Apparently the UK HSA is working on it; hopefully it won’t take too long.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
29 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago

My favourite crisps are salt and vinegar flavour Squares. Though it’s a close run thing with spicy tomato flavour Wheat Crunchies.
What about you guys?

Matt M
Matt M
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

I like the bacon flavoured Wheat Crunchies. And Frazzles.
Doing anything nice this weekend?

Last edited 9 months ago by Matt M
David Slade
David Slade
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Beef flavour hula hoops, clearly the best.

Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago
Reply to  David Slade

This is clearly an incorrect answer David and whoever upvoted your comment should hang their head in shame with you.
Hula Hoops are little more than reconstituted crisps, a Nescafé Gold Blend equivalent for people who don’t really like crisps.
If you must eat them, the ready salted flavour is least offensive.

Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The bacon flavour is acceptable but the only reason I would eat them is because I couldn’t find spicy tomato flavour. There is something strangely satisfying about the shape and texture of crunchy, vaguely intestinal shapes.
This weekend I am feeding my wife coffee while three children bounce off the walls and ask every 5 minutes when they can next play Fortnite.

Matt M
Matt M
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

My sister swears that a bottle of Lucozade and a packet of Wheat Crunchies can cure any hangover.

Good luck with the kids.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Not so keen on the stuff. Is there any other option?
What about some pistachio nuts (available from Lidl), they are very addictive.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrea X
Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

The problem with pistachio nuts is that a large enough salted bag of them will totally kill me one day.

John Vaccaro
John Vaccaro
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

I like the Cadbury’s “Boost” bar. Perfect for snacking and the extra benefit of keeping moronic at bay.

Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago
Reply to  John Vaccaro

Have you tried a Starbar? The Boost bar worships at the secret wardrobe altar of the Starbar, yearning to be more like it.
EDIT missed the obvious pun. It’s time I went home.

Last edited 9 months ago by Philip L
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

A bag of cheese and onion crisps and some biltong, while kicking back and watching Lewis Hamilton losing the championship is as good as it gets.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

The best thread on Unherd to date, bar the obvious omission of a few large chunks of mature cheddar dropped into virtually any pack of Walkers – Smokey Bacon being the top option.

Perhaps more importantly, can I establish whether cheddar with Xmas (fruit) cake is a general thing, a northern thing or just a my family thing.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Poor decision making – the top option for dropping into any bag of crisps is of course the pickled egg. Verb sap.

Claire Allen
Claire Allen
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

My dear old Dad loved a chunk of cheddar with his slice of fruit cake, and he was a Kentish lad. Where Son lives, in Lincolnshire, they traditionally serve cheese alongside Plum Bread for afternoon tea.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Sharp cheese with a sweet made it to America about three centuries ago … shows no signs of fading.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Two favorite crisp flavor – Mutton Vindaloo first, and second Pork Pie.

Gotta love those Sheep, you know Pfizer does, and you gotta love the Pigs too, someone’s gotta keep those sheep in line.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Pickled onion Monster Munch/ Skips

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Paprika Chips from Switzerland, top everything hands down. You people don’t know what you’re missing!

Jon Game
Jon Game
9 months ago

A lot of people won’t get boosted because they have already had covid and don’t subscribe to the pseudo-science of dangerous re-infections.

David Slade
David Slade
9 months ago

The last article on the post sensibly related to Covid fatigue.

Read the room, Mr Chivers.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  David Slade

I have no covid fatigue, just covid jadedness – Chivers needs to hype it up a bit – More on how to buy avian Hydroxychloroquine without a prescription at the pet supply shop – and some Bulgarian studies on Azythromycin and Zinc chased with horse de-wormer giving excellent resistance. Maybe the Australian Covid Concentration Camps, and rubber Bullet injuries in Belgium anti mask riots.

There is all kinds of things, just look deeper

andrew harman
andrew harman
9 months ago

I’m going to be watching the action from the Ally Pally tonight. Wonder if Gerwyn Price can retain his title?

Philip L
Philip L
9 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I spend most of my time these days grumping at the fact Sky are charging me £67 per month AND hitting me with adverts.

andrew harman
andrew harman
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Indeed and hard to forgive them for the abomination that is Sky News.

Joffre Woods
Joffre Woods
9 months ago

I’d everyone ok for a drink?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
9 months ago

I had Covid. Then had 2 jabs. As far as I’m concerned I’ve had more than enough

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
9 months ago

So, a booster designed for the first round of Covid-19 will work on this newest mutation. Sure it will. Feel the sarcasm in my voice?

andrew harman
andrew harman
9 months ago

I think the comments section amply demonstrates that it is high time Unherd dispensed with the services of Mr Chivers.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago

Useful and interesting artilce.