Booster shots at least 80% effective against severe Omicron symptoms

Researchers in the UK have completed preliminary analysis on the likely impact that a Covid booster shot will have on the new variant and say it could provide around 85% protection against severe Omicron symptoms. This level of protection is lower than the vaccines given against earlier strains but should still be enough to keep many people out of hospital.

Experts are still trying to ascertain how Omicron will play out for people, and whether the relatively mild symptoms seen so far are indicative for all cases. The modelling completed by the team at Imperial College London is based on the limited information scientists currently have on Omicron. This means there is a high level of uncertainty until more real-world information is gathered, reports the BBC. 

The vaccines currently available help to teach the body how to fight Covid, but as the new variant has heavily mutated from the original, the doses available are not a perfect match and so are less effective. To get around this, people are being advised to get their booster to build higher antibody levels as this should create less severe Omicron symptoms.

Double-vaccinated people could be seeing a 20 to 40-fold reduction in their antibody protection and the preliminary work from Imperial College assumes there will be a drop in vaccine efficacy against Omicron. Even with a booster, the protection level against severe Omicron symptoms has dropped by around 10% in comparison to Delta, the other dominant UK strain. 

Dr Clive Dix, former chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said to the BBC: “There is a huge amount of uncertainty in these modelled estimates and we can only be confident about the impact of boosters against Omicron when we have another month of real-world data on hospitalisation, ICU [intensive care] numbers and deaths.

“It remains the case that we still need to get vaccines current and future to the whole world.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon