Sajid Javid, the British Health Secretary, urged individuals to book a COVID-19 booster shot on Wednesday, citing 22 confirmed cases of the Omicron virus variant in the UK.
Even if vaccinations are not as successful against the variant as past strains of the disease, Javid said the government believes a booster campaign would help protect against severe illness from Omicron.
He said he hoped to learn more about Omicron in the next two weeks as scientists work to understand how the new variant will affect transmissibility and serious disease.
"The case numbers are very low at this time," Javid said. "At the moment, we have 22 confirmed cases in the UK, and that number will undoubtedly rise."
By the end of January, the UK wants to administer a COVID-19 booster shot to all adults. According to government data, 81% of those over the age of 12 have had two doses of the vaccine, with 32% receiving a booster shot or third dose.
"Vaccines are still our best form of defence," Javid said. "Of course, it's possible that it will be less effective. We simply don't know for sure. However, it is highly likely that it will continue to be effective against serious disease."