The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has unveiled ‘encouraging’ new evidence – but it also reveals the AstraZeneca vaccine has no effect against getting symptomatic Covid 20 weeks after a second dose
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People who catch Omicron Covid are just one-third as likely to enter hospital as those who get Delta, a major analysis for the government has found.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) unveiled an “encouraging” assessment of the variant which is now thought to account for most cases in Britain.
Last week the UKHSA estimated Omicron sufferers were 31% to 45% less likely to attend A&E than Delta, and 50 to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.
Today the UKHSA’s fresh analysis was more optimistic – finding the risk of attending A&E or being admitted was 43-50% lower, and the risk of full hospital admission was between 63% and 70% lower.
The news will likely be hailed as a victory by Boris Johnson, who has refused to impose new Covid curbs in England before New Year’s Eve.
But medics warned the “encouraging” news was not enough to stop a large wave of hospital admissions because Omicron spreads so quickly.
There were 11,452 Covid patients in England’s hospital beds at 8am yesterday – up from 7,166 on Christmas Day.
And new data today shows 24,632 NHS staff in England were sick with Covid or isolating on Boxing Day – a rise of 30% in just a week.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at UKHSA, said: “The latest set of analysis is in keeping with the encouraging signs we have already seen.
“However, it remains too early to draw any definitive conclusions on hospital severity.
“And the increased transmissibility of Omicron and the rising cases in the over 60s population in England means it remains highly likely that there will be significant pressure on the NHS in coming weeks.”
Meanwhile today’s data suggests people who catch the Omicron Covid variant are 81% less likely to enter hospital if they’ve been triple-jabbed, compared to if they’re not vaccinated at all.
The risk of hospitalisation for symptomatic Omicron cases – compared to unvaccinated people – was 35% lower after one dose, 67% lower up to 24 weeks after a second dose, and 51% lower a longer time after the second dose.
But against getting Omicron Covid with symptoms, two doses of a vaccine are not enough.
The AstraZeneca vaccine had no effect at all on getting symptomatic Omicron Covid, 20 weeks after the second dose.
For people who received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, effectiveness against symptomatic Omicron Covid dropped to just 10% by 20 weeks.
Dr Hopkins said: “The data once again shows that coming forward for your jab, particularly your third dose, is the best way of protecting yourself and others against infection and severe disease.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is more promising data which reinforces just how important vaccines are.
“They save lives and prevent serious illness. This analysis shows you are up to 8 times more likely to end up in hospital as a result of COVID-19 if you are unvaccinated.
“It is never too late to come forward for your first dose and it’s vital that everyone comes forward to get boosted now as we head into the new year.”
The UKHSA worked alongside Cambridge University MRC Biostatistics unit to analyse 528,176 Omicron cases and 573,012 Delta cases between 22 November and 26 December.
As of December 29 there have been 694,834 confirmed, probable or possible Omicron cases in England.
The data was adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, local area deprivation, international travel and vaccination status.
It was also adjusted for whether the current infection is a known reinfection, though it may not have accounted for the full extent of these.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.