The effectiveness of the coronavirus booster vaccine could wane off after just 10 weeks, according to new data.
It come as the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said data suggesting Omicron may be less likely to lead to serious illness than the Delta variant of coronavirus offers a “glimmer of Christmas hope”.
But she warned that it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain, which is still spreading rapidly across the UK.
READ MORE: New Year’s Eve Covid restrictions ‘less likely’ after Omicron update
An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 19, the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
As of December 20, more than 56,000 cases of Omicron have been identified in England although the number is likely to be significantly higher as the rapid spread has seen it become the “dominant strain now right across the UK”.
The reported stated 14 people are reported to have died within 28 days of an Omicron diagnosis with their ages ranging from 52 to 96-years-old, the M.E.N reports.
It read: “There is evidence of waning of protection against symptomatic disease with increasing time after dose 2, and by 10 weeks after the booster dose, with a 15 to 25 per cent reduction in vaccine effectiveness after 10 weeks
“This waning is faster for Omicron than for Delta infections.
“There are insufficient severe cases of Omicron as yet to analyse vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation, but this is expected to be better sustained, for both primary and booster doses.”
Dr Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more information is needed, particularly about the impact on elderly and more vulnerable patients.
She added: “There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”
The UKHSA estimates that someone with Omicron is between 31% and 45% less likely to attend A&E and 50% to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.
Dr Harries added: “What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences, so it is a very balanced position.”
The UKHSA data has fuelled speculation in Westminster that further restrictions can be avoided in England after Christmas.
In Scotland, nightclubs will close for at least three weeks from December 27 as part of a package of measures to control the spread of the virus, while clubs in Wales and Northern Ireland will close from Boxing Day.
But in England, the Government may choose to issue new guidance on limiting contacts rather than risk another damaging Tory rebellion by recalling Parliament to impose new rules.
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