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

10 December 2021, 17:54 | Updated: 10 December 2021, 19:29

UK Health Security Agency says it is projected that if current trends continue unchanged the UK will exceed one million infections.
UK Health Security Agency says it is projected that if current trends continue unchanged the UK will exceed one million infections. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Omicron is projected to become the dominant variant in the UK by mid-December but initial studies show Covid booster jabs are at least 70% effective, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

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Evidence shows that Omicron is growing much faster than Delta in England with experts estimating that if the variant continues to grow at its current rate, the UK could see up to one million cases in total by the end of the month. 

But according to UKHSA, booster jabs provide between 70 to 75 per cent protection against symptomatic infection of coronavirus.

Analysis of 581 people with confirmed Omicron cases showed the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided "much lower" levels of protection against Omicron when compared with the Delta variant.

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But the UKHSA said that preliminary data showed vaccine effectiveness "considerably increased" in the early period after a booster dose, providing around 70 to 75 per cent protection against symptomatic infection.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, 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.

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

"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."

An additional 448 confirmed cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been reported across the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed Omicron cases in the UK to 1,265.

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The new data comes after Michael Gove announced an emergency COBRA meeting with the first ministers of the devolved nations on Friday afternoon.

The Ministers met to discuss Covid-19 data and co-ordination on the response, with Mr Gove saying Covid "is a deeply concerning situation" and today's Cobra meeting "was presented with some very challenging new information".

"We absolutely need to keep everything under review."

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: "Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant.

"It is also absolutely critical that we all do what we can to reduce transmission in the community so that we have time to administer as many booster doses as possible. Please make sure you follow all the available guidance.

"Work from home if you are able to, wear a mask indoors around other people, and ventilate indoor spaces well."

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: "Today’s new data shows how important booster jabs are to protect us against this variant.

"They are our best defence and we have turbocharged our rollout programme inviting seven million more people over the age of 40 to get their booster jab so even more people get protection from this disease. I urge you to come forward as soon as you’re eligible to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe."