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Covid booster vax not effective for Omicron as against Delta: UK expert

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London, Dec 13 (IANS) A booster dose of Covid vaccine may not confer the same level of protection against the new hyper mutated Omicron variant as it did for Delta, claimed a researcher from the University of Bern on Monday.

Several studies from the US, UK and Israel have shown that two doses of Covid vaccination are not enough and a booster dose is imperative to tackle Omicron.

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The protection is “maybe more around 70 per cent” against Omicron, compared to 90 per cent against Delta”, Dr. Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the varsity was quoted as saying to BBC Radio.

“This is particularly important if you’re someone who is vulnerable or elderly, because it is good to know you may not have complete protection,” she said.

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Early data from South Africa suggests Omicron “isn’t quite as bad as previous variants”, said Hodcroft, but there are important caveats which mean the UK “needs to be really cautious”.

South Africa’s population is much younger than the UK’s so the outcomes don’t tend to be so bad

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A lot of South Africans have been infected and recovered from Covid or been vaccinated, so are less likely to get bad symptoms. Many infected with Omicron have not had it for very long, and it can take weeks before you end up with symptoms bad enough to go to hospital

“Even if Omicron is less harmful, it seems to be moving so quickly that if a lot of people in the UK got it at the same time, we could still risk overwhelming the NHS which is already stressed from Delta,” Hodcroft said.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the nation will see a ‘tidal wave’ of Omicron variant, even as the country sees one death due to the variant.

The country’s Covid alert level has also been raised to four due to the spread of the super mutant strain of coronavirus. Level four means a high or rising level of transmission – the last time the UK was at this level was in May.

Declaring an “Omicron emergency”, Johnson also set a new booster target – the third doses will be offered to everyone over 18 in England from this week, three months after their second dose.

A new modelling study, yet-to-be peer-reviewed, projected that the super mutant strain may cause between 25,000 and 75,000 Covid-19 related deaths in the UK by April next year.

According to the School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in the case of a high immune escape and lower effectiveness of boosters, as predicted, Omicron infections are likely to lead to a peak in hospital admissions around twice as high as the peak seen in January 2021.

If no additional control measures are taken it will cause 492,000 hospitalisations and 74,800 deaths.

–IANS

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