A third complementary booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine offers high levels of protection against severe disease of the Omicron variant in the elderly, a latest British study concluded on Saturday.
Analysis by the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) showed that around three months after the third jab, protection against hospitalization in people aged 65 and over remains at around 90%.
While with a booster the duration of protection against critical illness remains high, protection against mild symptomatic infections is shorter and drops to around 30% in about three months.
The UKHSA study looked at booster shots in people over the age of 65, who were among the first to be eligible when the UK booster rollout began in mid-September 2021.
The latest findings also show that protection against severe infection with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 after the first two doses wanes within months.
“With just two doses of the vaccine, protection against serious infections drops to about 70 percent after three months and to 50 percent after six months,” the study notes.
The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said it had taken this latest evidence into account in its ongoing review of the booster program and decided not to implement a fourth booster dose at this stage.
“Current data shows that the booster dose continues to provide high levels of protection against serious infections, even for the most vulnerable age groups. For this reason, the committee concluded that there was no immediate need to introduce a second booster dose, although this will continue to be examined, ”said Prof. Wei Shen Lim, President of JCVI on vaccination against COVID-19.
“The data is very encouraging and underscores the value of a booster. With Omicron continuing to spread widely, I encourage everyone to come forward for their booster dose, or if they aren’t vaccinated, for both of them. first doses, to increase their protection against serious illness, “he said.
The JCVI concluded that there was no immediate need to introduce a fourth vaccine for the most vulnerable groups such as residents of nursing homes and people over the age of 80 and that the priority should continue to be given to the deployment of early reminders to all age groups.
However, extremely vulnerable patients with weakened immune systems are still advised to give the fourth injection to get the full vaccine.
More than 35 million boosters and third doses have now been given across the UK, with the government’s ‘Get Boosted Now’ campaign late last year to tackle the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
It comes at a time when the rate of daily infections in the UK continues to remain high, with 178,250 more cases reported on Friday.
Hospitalizations, which have remained relatively low, have also started to increase among vulnerable age groups.
As a result, widespread staff absences due to self-isolation have placed great pressure on the country’s National Health Service (NHS), with military personnel enlisted for support in some areas.
“I think we have to be honest when we look at the NHS and say it’s going to be a tough few weeks ahead,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
About 4 percent of hospital staff in England – nearly 36,000 – were on sick leave for reasons related to COVID -19 during the week ending January 2. When other sick leaves are added, that brings the total to 9 percent – nearly double what would normally be seen at this time of year.