Booster jabs DO work against Omicron as variant spreads 4 times faster than Delta

OMICRON is spreading “four times faster than Delta”, experts say, as the strain is days away from becoming dominant.

But as the UK hurtles towards an Omicron wave, more data shows that people are far less likely to get infected with Covid once they get a booster vaccine.

The REACT-1 study, from Imperial College London, swabs more than 100,000 people across England for Covid every month.

The results of its most recent sample – (round 16) from November 23 to December 14 – was published today.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the study, said: “The proportion of samples that we sequenced that are Omicron has been rapidly increasing…

“We estimate around 8-9 days for Omicron to go from 10 per cent to 90 per cent, which is around three to four times faster than when we observed Delta replacing Alpha earlier in the year.”

The study estimated that people with a top-up dose were at three to four-fold lower risk of testing positive compared to those who had received two doses.

It showed that in round 16, Covid positivity fell by over 40 per cent in those over 65.

For those aged 75 years and over it fell by two-thirds.

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The paper said: “There were large falls in swab positivity among people aged 65 years and over, the vast majority of whom have had a third (booster) vaccine dose.

“These results reinforce the importance of the vaccine and booster campaign.”

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Positivity rates in secondary school kids more than halved between October and December.

Prof Elliott said: “It is therefore vital that as many people as possible get vaccinated, including getting their boosters, and take sensible precautions such as mask-wearing to reduce the risk of infection.”

On the back of the findings, Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Omicron is spreading fast and the Covid-19 vaccine remains our best line of defence against it.

“I urge everyone who is eligible to come forward to receive their latest jab without delay – whether that’s a first, second, third or booster dose.”


Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “While infections may be rising rapidly across the country, you can protect yourself, your friends, family and community by getting boosted now – like 28 million others across the UK so far.”

All adults are being urged to come forward for their booster dose as soon as they are eligible – three months after their second – in order to tackle the Omicron variant.

The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

Although the jabs are slightly less effective against Omicron than they were Delta, they are still the only way to significantly reduce the risk of infection and hospitalisation. 

HIGH PREVALENCE

According to the data, the prevalence of Covid in the community was 1.41 per cent between November 23 and December 14.

It’s the equivalent to one in 70 people. 

However, this is an average figure for the whole month, which may explain why it was lower than the 1.57 per cent recorded in round 15.

Case numbers were on a downward trajectory at the end of November before surging in the first two weeks of December – both of which were captured in this sample. 

The overall R rate was estimated to be 1.13. But looking at the data only since December 1, when Omicron had seeded itself, it was 1.27.

London, the epicentre of the variant, is estimated to have an R of 1.6, while prevalence was estimated to be 1.84 per cent. 

The highest prevalence of Covid was among primary school children at 4.74 per cent.

Five to 11-year-olds have not been offered any vaccination against the virus, although on Wednesday the vaccine panel JCVI advised for the most vulnerable over 5s to be jabbed.

But in secondary school children, aged between 12 to 17-years-old, prevalence more than halved between the two rounds, from 5.35 per cent to 2.31 per cent.

“This is obviously is coincident with very large vaccination in this group, at least single dose and in some cases double dose,” Prof Elliott said.

“We can see that for a single dose in 12-17 years olds, there is around 56 per cent effectiveness against infection.”

Similar large drops in case numbers were seen among the older generations, more than 90 per cent of whom have now had their crucial booster shots.

But among the 18 to 54-year-olds, particularly those in the younger generations, cases of Covid have been surging.

JABS MAY NOT BE ENOUGH

The research team said Delta is rapidly being replaced by Omicron, which evidence shows has the potential to infect more people than previous strains.

They warned today that the “rapidly increasing prevalence” of Covid in England this month “may lead to renewed pressure on health service”.

“Additional measures beyond vaccination may be needed to control the current wave of infections and prevent health services (in England and other countries) from being overwhelmed,” they warned.

It comes as people in England anxiously wait for Boris Johnson to reveal what restrictions to expect beyond Christmas.

Wales became the latest part of the UK to outline a tightening of restrictions after Scotland, while Northern Ireland will also decide on Wednesday what the next steps are.

The Prime Minister has reassured people that no further curbs will be introduced in England before December 25.

But New Year’s Eve celebrations are under threat, with reports plans can stay in places as long as hospital admissions in London stay under 400 a day.

Mr Johnson said on Tuesday there was currently not enough evidence on the severity of the Omicron variant and hospital admission to justify stricter measures.

And in a glimmer of hope for people hoping to celebrate into 2022, leaked data today suggests that Omicron is milder than Delta.

Care Minister Gillian Keegan said data on Omicron's severity was the "missing piece" the Government had been waiting for before deciding how to act.

Meanwhile, 100,000 Covid cases were reported yesterday for the first time in the pandemic.

The latest Government figures show a further 106,122 daily infections and 140 deaths.

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