Omicron: Get booster straight away if you are eligible, health officials urge

11 December 2021, 07:56 | Updated: 11 December 2021, 11:06

Dr Mary Ramsay urged people to get a booster as soon as possible if they are eligible
Dr Mary Ramsay urged people to get a booster as soon as possible if they are eligible. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Health officials have renewed their pleas for people to get a Covid-19 booster jab as soon as possible to help tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.

A booster dose sees the risk of symptomatic infection with the Omicron variant "significantly reduced", according to health officials who have urged all those eligible to make sure they get a third jab.

Experts have said the new variant could become the dominant strain in the UK by mid-December, with a Cabinet minister saying everything is being kept "under review" in terms of measures to tackle the spread.

Read more: Gove: Covid rules to be constantly reviewed after 'challenging' Omicron information

Read more: Booster 75% effective against Omicron with strain set to become dominant in UK

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines provided "much lower" levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared to Delta.

But preliminary data, which looked at 581 people with confirmed Omicron, suggested effectiveness seemed to "increase considerably" in the early period after a booster dose, giving around 70 to 75% protection against symptomatic infection.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the agency, said: "These early estimates should be treated with caution but they indicate that a few months after the second jab, there is a greater risk of catching the Omicron variant compared to Delta strain."

She added: "We expect the vaccines to show higher protection against the serious complications of Covid-19, so if you haven't yet had your first two doses please book an appointment straight away."

Cabinet minister Michael Gove warned of a "deeply concerning situation" after holding a Cobra meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the latest data and the co-ordinated response across the four nations.

The Government said, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 58,194 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.

The last time a higher daily figure was reported was on January 9, when 59,937 cases were recorded.

An additional 448 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, bringing the total number to 1,265.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, said while their early data should be treated with caution, it indicates that "a few months after the second jab, there is a greater risk of catching the Omicron variant compared to Delta strain".

She added: "The data suggest this risk is significantly reduced following a booster vaccine, so I urge everyone to take up their booster when eligible."

Mr Gove said the Omicron variant is doubling every two to three days in England "and possibly even faster in Scotland".

He added that 30% of reported cases in London are the new variant, and warned that evidence suggests Omicron is "more likely" than past Covid variants to "potentially" lead to hospital admissions among the fully vaccinated.

Mr Gove said the current approach being taken is "proportionate", but acknowledged that "we absolutely do need to keep everything under review".

He said: "Action is absolutely required and, as new data comes in, we will consider what action we do require to take in the face of that data."