2021-09-14 21:04:02 Johnson Doubles Down on Vaccine Strategy as His Popularity Wanes
Johnson Doubles Down on Vaccine Strategy as His Popularity Wanes
LONDON: When Prime Minister Boris Johnson botched his initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, his political fortunes took a hit, only to quickly recover thanks to Britain’s surprisingly effective vaccine rollout.
With his popularity dwindling once more, this time as a result of a broken promise not to raise taxes, Mr. Johnson is hoping that history will repeat itself.
On Tuesday, he announced a campaign to provide vaccine booster shots to people over the age of 50, as well as first shots to three million children aged 12 to 15 — all while pledging to avoid future lockdowns.
If there is a surge of new cases this winter, he could reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, distribute vaccine passports, and encourage workers to stay home if possible, as part of the government’s “Plan B.”
“We’re now in a situation where so many people have some level of immunity that smaller changes in how we ask people to behave can have a bigger impact,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference.
For the time being, the prime minister is putting his faith in a stepped-up vaccine campaign to keep Britain’s health service from becoming overburdened, and to keep him from having to order new lockdowns, which would depress the economy and enrage a vocal caucus of his own lawmakers.
“The vaccine bounce helped him the first time around, and if the booster plan — which will be a huge story in British politics — goes well and he can say the rollout is going to plan, that will potentially help him,” said Matthew Goodwin, a political science professor at Kent University.
Mr. Goodwin added, however, that “he is certainly vulnerable in terms of his internal critics.” The risks are high for a leader who frequently appears to defy political gravity, because poll ratings for Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party are falling for the first time in months.
He announced tax increases last week, and there are growing doubts about his pledge to “level up” economically disadvantaged areas. There are also indications that some of the new voters attracted by Mr. Johnson in the 2019 election may be leaving.
“At the moment, his premiership does not appear to have delivered on the things that these voters want,” Professor Goodwin said. Mr. Johnson was forced to break his word and agree to raise taxes on workers, employers, and some investors due to a looming funding crisis in health and social care programs.
This has not only jeopardized his party’s reputation for low taxation, but it has also enraged several prominent party donors. According to a recent YouGov poll, support for the Conservatives has dropped by five points to 33 percent, while support for the Labour Party has increased by one point to 35 percent, putting it in the lead for the first time since January.
Mr. Johnson’s challenge is exacerbated by the fact that, while polls show that the British public favors strict measures to contain the virus, lockdown restrictions are anathema to a vocal libertarian wing of his own Conservative Party.
So, while the government did not rule out tougher restrictions, it made it clear that they would be a last resort after exhausting “lockdown lite” measures such as mandatory mask wearing or vaccine passports.
Mr. Johnson emphasized the success of the vaccination campaign on Tuesday, saying it had resulted in “one of the most free societies and one of the most open economies in Europe.”
“That is why we are now sticking to our strategy,” he added. Public-health experts generally backed Mr. Johnson’s announcements, though some noted that Britain, as usual, seemed to lag behind other countries on issues such as vaccinating children and encouraging the use of face masks.
“They always get there, just a little later than they should,” said Devi Sridhar, director of the University of Edinburgh’s global public health program. Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET on September 14, 2021.
Britain, she said, was “heading in the same direction as other countries, but with a significant delay” in vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, developing contingency plans for mandatory mask wearing and vaccine passports, and ramping up testing to get the country through what was expected to be a difficult winter.
The decision to vaccinate children as young as 12 was contentious, despite the fact that many other countries, including the United States, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, had done so for months.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, a British government advisory group, previously concluded that the health benefits for children aged 12 to 15 were marginal.
This sparked a debate about the ethics of immunizing children in order to prevent the spread of a virus that poses a health risk to the adults with whom they live and interact.
On Monday, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland argued that a vaccination campaign would benefit young people by reducing disruption in schools.
Similarly, the decision on boosters places Britain among a growing number of countries offering additional shots to their own citizens before many people in large parts of the world have received even one dose, prompting criticism from David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid. Understand Vaccine and Mask Requirements in the United StatesVaccine regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-coronavirus BioNTech’s vaccine for people aged 16 and up on August 23, paving the way for mandate increases in both the public and private sectors.
Vaccines are increasingly being mandated for employees by private companies. Such mandates are legally permissible and have been upheld in court. Mask is supreme.
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within outbreak areas, reversing previous guidance issued in May.
See where the CDC guidance would apply, as well as where states have implemented their own mask policies. Masks have become a point of contention in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
Universities and colleges Over 400 colleges and universities require students to be immunized against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that supported Vice President Biden. Schools.
Vaccine mandates for educators have been implemented in both California and New York City. According to an August survey, many American parents of school-age children oppose mandatory vaccines for students, but are more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers, and staff members who do not have their shots.
Hospitals and medical facilities Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations for their employees, citing rising caseloads caused by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination rates in their communities, including within their own workforce.
The city of New York. Workers and customers must show proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations, though enforcement does not begin until September 13.
Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will be required to receive at least one vaccine dose by September 27, with no option for weekly testing.
Employees at city hospitals must also get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. New York State employees are subject to similar rules. On a federal level. The Pentagon announced that coronavirus vaccinations would be made mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September.
President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and travel restrictions.
“I’m a little upset, to be honest, to hear that Britain is going into boosters, when this is simply going to take really precious vaccine away from people in other parts of the world who can’t get their basic two doses, and thus will be at risk of death,” he said on Times Radio. Mr.
Johnson must decide whether vaccines and his light-handed approach to other restrictions will be enough to prevent more draconian measures. According to Graham Medley, an epidemiologist advising the government, the virus’s reproduction rate in England was around one, indicating that the epidemic was still circulating widely but not spreading exponentially.
He stated that he does not anticipate a return to the high levels of infection seen in January of last year. Nonetheless, Professor Medley stated that the divergent experiences of other parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, where infection rates have fluctuated dramatically, demonstrated how unpredictable the virus remained.
According to him, none of the models predicted that cases in England would fall rather than rise in July. “We are still waiting to see the full impact of schools reopening and people returning to work,” said Dr. Medley, an infectious disease modeling professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The virus is still causing more than 25,000 cases per day in the United Kingdom, and hospital admissions are around 1,000 per day. That is enough to put a strain on the National Health Service, which must also deal with a massive backlog of procedures that had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Mr. Johnson’s gamble of removing most restrictions in July appeared to pay off, as new cases fell rather than rose. However, with schools reopening in England over the last two weeks, an outbreak of infections is still possible.
Cases increased dramatically in Scotland, where schools opened earlier. Mr. Johnson is betting that a new vaccine rollout with few restrictions will be enough to prevent a significant increase in hospitalizations.
Avoiding further lockdowns is critical for Mr. Johnson, according to Professor Goodwin, who added that even if measures like mask wearing were reinstated to combat the spread of the virus, some of his own lawmakers would be outraged. “They are eager for us to progress and