UK 'considering fourth Covid vaccine dose'

24 December 2021, 11:25

Experts are considering whether to offer a fourth jab
Experts are considering whether to offer a fourth jab. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Health experts are assessing whether a fourth jab against Covid should be offered to millions of people across the UK next year.

It comes after a new study showed protection against Omicron wanes within 10 weeks of the initial booster or third jab.

Ten weeks after receiving the booster, protection against symptomatic disease drops by between 15 and 25%, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) study shows.

However, protection is still likely to be far more robust against severe disease.

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The major study showed people with Omicron are up to 70% less likely to go to hospital compared to previous Covid strains.

People are also between 31 and 45% less likely to go to A&E with Omicron.

Israel has became the first country to announce it would go ahead with offering a fourth dose, for all people aged over 60.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, said: "Our latest analysis shows an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation than those who contract other variants.

"Cases are currently very high in the UK, and even a relatively low proportion requiring hospitalisation could result in a significant number of people becoming seriously ill."

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This new UKHSA data on Omicron is promising - while two doses of the vaccine aren't enough, we know boosters offer significant protection against the variant and early evidence suggests this strain may be less severe than Delta.

"However, cases of the variant continue to rise at an extraordinary rate - already surpassing the record daily number in the pandemic. Hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed."

Other studies from around the world have also suggested Omicron is milder than previous strains.

Earlier this week, research from Imperial College London indicated people with PCR-confirmed Omicron are 15 to 20% less likely to need admission to hospital, and 40 to 45% less likely to require a stay of one night or more.