A third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides up to 75% protection against symptomatic infection from the new Omicron variant, says the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Two doses of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca – administered in India as Covishield – and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines provide much lower levels of protection against symptomatic infection compared to the currently dominant delta variant.
It said a third top-up dose does seem to boost immunity against the new variant, based on analysis of data from 581 omicron cases. “It is projected that if current trends continue unchanged, the UK will exceed one million infections by the end of this month,” UKHSA said. “The preliminary data showed effectiveness against the new variant appears to increase considerably in the early period after a booster dose, providing around 70-75% protection against symptomatic infection. Due to the early nature of the findings, all estimates are subject to significant uncertainty and are subject to change.”
Health experts reiterated that vaccines are still likely to offer good protection against severe COVID, which required hospital treatment. Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunization, 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. “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.”
Furthermore, Dr Ramsay highlighted the current guidance of working from home where possible, consistently wearing masks in crowded or enclosed spaces, washing hands regularly and isolating and getting tested if one feels unwell as vitally important in reducing the impact of COVID-19.