Millions could get early fourth jab as booster effect ‘starts waning in 10 weeks’


UKHSA analysis has found the booster vaccine is ‘about 15-25%’ less effective against people getting Omicron than getting Delta, just 10 weeks after the third dose

Early analysis suggests the protection from a booster vaccine 'starts to wane more rapidly against Omicron than Delta' - though this is only about having Covid, not about going to hospital
Early analysis suggests the protection from a booster vaccine ‘starts to wane more rapidly against Omicron than Delta’ – though this is only about having Covid, not about going to hospital

Millions of Brits could get an early fourth dose of Covid vaccine after a study suggested the booster effect against getting Omicron starts fading in as little as 10 weeks.

UK government advisors have already said a fourth dose of vaccine for some people is likely, with a decision in the new year.

And they’ve suggested the fact that third doses were rushed out could mean the gap before a fourth dose has to be shortened.

Now the UK Health Security Agency has suggested booster protection against Omicron “wanes more rapidly” than against Delta.

Around 10 weeks after a booster dose, protection against symptomatic disease with Omicron is “about 15-25% lower” than against Delta, early UKHSA analysis said.

The UKHSA added: “There is evidence that protection against symptomatic disease wanes after the second dose of vaccine, and then improves after the booster.

Millions of people have got booster jabs across the UK (file photos)
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

“But the latest data suggests this extra protection starts to wane more rapidly against Omicron than Delta, being about 15-25% lower from 10 weeks after the booster dose.”

The UKHSA stressed the booster is “more likely” to remain effective against the most severe hospital cases of Omicron.

But “there are insufficient severe cases of Omicron as yet to analyse” this, the UKHSA said.

It’s understood this will be a key factor in whether to recommend a fourth dose for older or clinically vulnerable Brits.

So far the data is on how likely boosted people are to get Omicron with symptoms, not on how likely they are to be in hospital.

If the booster’s ability to stop people ending up in hospital faded faster as well, officials would return to examine the options.

Officials warned the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will be “watching the situation very closely”.

Modellers are still trying to work out the level of danger posed to the over-65s, who are more vulnerable due to their age and have had longer since their booster.

The 14 confirmed Omicron cases who have died so far were aged from 52 to 96.

As of December 20, 132 people with confirmed Omicron had been admitted to or transferred from emergency departments.

Of those, 17 had received a booster, 74 had two doses and 27 were unvaccinated.

JCVI chief Prof Wei Shen Lim has previously suggested the sped-up booster rollout – with three months instead of six between second and third doses – could mean the interval before a fourth dose has to be shortened too.

He said on December 14 that waiting three months, not six, for a booster dose “might mean a lower peak protection”.

He told MPs: “If you get the booster at six months and you teach a higher level, say 200, and that wanes at a certain constant rate, to drop from 200 to 50 would take a period of time.

“If you get the booster at three months and the peak level it can get to is lower, say 150, and it wanes at the same rate, it will reach 50 at an earlier time point.”

JCVI member Prof Adam Finn added yesterday: “I think there will be people probably who will receive a fourth jab – whether that will be everyone, I think, is still very much in doubt.

“We do need to see how things go through this wave and beyond.

“I think there may well be people who received their boosters early who are in the older more vulnerable age groups who may need a further jab – that has not been decided yet.

“It is still under review and discussion, and we will be providing recommendations on that at some point in the new year.”

Scotland’s national clinical director added a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will “probably” be needed over the coming years.

Professor Jason Leitch told the BBC : “It would seem that we will probably need some kind of timed booster or next dose over the next few years.

“We don’t know that for sure – it may be that we just offer that to the vulnerable, those who are maybe a bit older.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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