Two doses of the Covid vaccine are less effective against the omicron variant than the delta, the government’s initial analysis shows, although protection from symptomatic disease after a booster shot remains high.
The government has warned that the country is facing a “deeply worrying situation”, with the UK experiencing an imminent increase in cases caused by the new variant, along with with an appalling increase in hospitalization rates among the unvaccinated or poorly protected.
The impact of the new variant has been felt. Around 58,194 cases of infection were reported in the UK on Friday – the highest total since 9 January. An additional 448 omicron cases were also confirmed, bringing the total to 1,265, but the execution figure is believed to have passed 10,000.
Omicrons are transmitting more efficiently Delta and is expected to become dominant next week, at which point it will account for more than 50% of all infections, the UK Health Security Agency said. Current trends suggest that the UK will hit more than a million omicron cases before the end of December.
It is not yet clear how this translates to pressure on the NHS, but Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said there was concern that “reducing the effectiveness of vaccines for severe illness despite Even a very small amount can increase hospitalization rates.”
“The biggest worry we have is that if we have a lot of people infected at the same time, with the doubling rate that we’re seeing at the moment, it’s going to find all the people who have a response. less immune system or those who have not had a booster shot or have not been vaccinated”.
She said there were still more than five million people in the UK who had yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine – a “significant” number.
UKHSA analysis shows that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provide a much lower level of protection against symptomatic infection from omicrons than delta, making the dual vaccines susceptible to variation.
However, people who received Pfizer after two doses of the vaccine were 70 to 75 percent protected, the study found.
The vaccine’s effectiveness against severe disease from omicrons is not yet known but is expected to be significantly higher than its ability to protect against mild infections, even after two doses. UKHSA said data on this would not be available for several weeks.
The analysis is based on 581 people infected with omicrons, along with thousands of cases of delta disease. UKHSA cautions against overinterpreting the results.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at UKHSA, said the findings reaffirmed the importance of strengthen jab when eligible.
“These initial estimates should be treated with caution, but they indicate that a few months after the second stab, there is a greater risk of acquiring the omicron variant than the delta strain. Data show that this risk is significantly reduced after booster vaccination. “
The government has said it intends to offer a boost to all people over 18 by the end of next month.
No 10 has said that tougher Covid restrictions will be in place if the worst concerns about omicron variation are realized. Contingency plans, known as ‘Plan C’, which have been outlined by officials, are said to include a return to waitressing in pubs and wearing masks in more establishments, in the UK. .
Downing Street said it was “not aware” of any documents listing more stringent measures under consideration, just days after Boris Johnson launched his Plan B to combat rising omicron cases. fast.
But the prime minister’s spokesman said: “We need to keep the characteristics of this variant under consideration and we will act if necessary.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/omicron-variant-booster-effectiveness-covid-b1973868.html Two Covid shots provide weak protection against omicrons, but boosters are 75% effective