Booster jabs are up to 75 percent effective against Omicron
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Experts are confident that three doses can keep people safe from the superstrain threatening to overwhelm Britain. It comes as Communities Secretary Michael Gove called it a “deeply concerning situation” and reports emerged of tougher Plan C measures, given the fast rate the Omicron variant is spreading across the country.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Scotland is facing a “tsunami” of cases ‑ stoking fears Britain could be hit with even tougher restrictions in the coming weeks.
But experts are now confident that three vaccine doses will provide significantly greater immunity against severe illness and death from the variant.
The UK Health Security Agency said preliminary data showed jab effectiveness “considerably increased” in the early period after a booster dose, providing around 70 to 75 percent protection against symptomatic infection.
With cases of the variant doubling every three days, Sajid Javid yesterday said third shots are “our best defence” against Omicron.
The Health Secretary said the UK’s booster rollout has been “turbocharged” in recent days.
More than 22 million people have now had their third dose and thousands of volunteers are coming forward to help the effort. Nearly 470,000 boosters were given out on Thursday alone.
Calling for one final push before Christmas, Mr Javid said: “I urge you to come forward as soon as you’re eligible to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”
The UKHSA estimates Omicron will account for more than half of all Covid cases by next week.
If that growth continues unabated, there will be more than one million infections by the end of the month.
However, nobody has been admitted to hospital with Omicron in the UK so far.
Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at the UKHSA, said: “These 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.
“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.”
People aged 40 and over in England are now able to line up their booster jabs, with the military helping in the national effort to speed up the new scheme.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “Getting your booster vaccine is the most important thing you can do ahead of Christmas to protect yourself and your family.”
The acceleration of the booster rollout comes as daily Covid cases reached their highest level in almost a year yesterday at 58,194.
An additional 448 confirmed cases of Omicron were reported across the nation, the UKHSA said. This brings the total number to 1,265.
The Government also said that a further 120 people had died.
Following an emergency Cobra committee meeting yesterday, Mr Gove gave a grim warning about the new variant.
The Communities Secretary said Omicron is “spreading in a way that means even those who are double vaccinated are more likely to succumb to this virus and find themselves ill, infected and potentially in hospital”.
He added: “Those facts mean that we do need to take action, and that’s why we’re bringing forward proposals to the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“And I’m confident that people will examine these proposals seriously, soberly and thoughtfully.
“I’m also confident people will conclude that, on balance, it is right to act.
“We know the Omicron variant is doubling every two to three days in England, and possibly even faster in Scotland.”
Ministers are reportedly drawing up a Plan C which could be triggered before Christmas.
Measures could include the return of the NHS Covid app to check into pubs and restaurants, face masks in all indoor spaces, vaccine passports in more venues and tougher isolation rules.
Visitors in social care settings could also be limited to three.
But Downing Street said there are currently “no plans” to go further with coronavirus restrictions.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have an array of options available to us in terms of what measures we can take to mitigate a growth of any variant or virus. But there are no plans to go beyond that currently.”
Earlier yesterday, Ms Sturgeon indicated she could introduce further safeguards in Scotland.
In England, the legal requirement to wear masks has been extended to more indoor spaces as the Government’s Plan B comes into force. There will be a return to working from home for those who can on Monday.
Covid passports for large venues will be brought in from Wednesday.
The new regulations will be put to a vote in the Commons next week.
BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire has revealed her brother has got Covid ‑ despite having maximum protection.
She tweeted: “My brother’s triple-jabbed. The third one was Pfizer three to four weeks ago. Had a Christmas meal out with a load of mates last Friday. All of them vaccinated ‑ 17 out of 21 of them have now tested positive.”
An Omicron case has been reported in a primary school for the first time.
All year five students, aged nine or 10, at Manor Community Primary School in Swanscombe, Kent, have been advised to stay home and get tested. Another class was also asked to test.
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