How effective is AstraZeneca against Omicron? Why Oxford vaccine isn’t offered as booster

Boris Johnson urges UK to ‘get boosted now’ to fight Omicron

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With cases of the Omicron variant topping 10,000 just two weeks after the first pair of cases were confirmed in the UK, the Government is urging everyone to get triple-jabbed to offer the best protection against Omicron symptoms. Is the AstraZeneca vaccine effective against Omicron? And why isn’t it offered as a booster?

Every eligible Briton is being urged to get their booster jab as soon as possible, in an attempt to curb the rapid rise in Omicron cases.

Early analysis from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows AstraZeneca to be particularly weak at preventing a symptomatic infection from Omicron, but the UKHSA hasten to add that its data is very early and based on a small sample size.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA, said: “These early estimates should be treated with caution but they indicate that a few months after the second jab, there is a greater risk of catching the Omicron variant compared to Delta strain.

“The data suggests this risk is significantly reduced following a booster vaccine, so I urge everyone to take up their booster when eligible.”

However, those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine will have been in the most clinically vulnerable groups, as this vaccine was rolled out first – and subsequently not offered to younger groups.

Therefore these people will likely have already been given the booster in the first few weeks of the rollout.

Anyone else who received AstraZeneca for their first two doses of the vaccine will be given a booster of Pfizer or Moderna.

AstraZeneca is not being offered as a booster jab, as it is thought vaccines using mRNA technology – such as Pfizer and Moderna – give the vaccine effectiveness a better boost.

How effective is a Pfizer booster after AstraZeneca?

If you had your first two doses of AstraZeneca, but get a booster of Pfizer, you can expect your vaccine effectiveness against symptoms from the new Omicron variant to be around 70 percent, according to the earliest analysis by UKHSA.

This is just five percent below the vaccine effectiveness for those who had two doses of Pfizer and a booster of the same vaccine, who can expect 75 percent vaccine effectiveness against becoming symptomatic from the new variant.

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How effective is a Moderna booster after AstraZeneca?

As it’s still such early days as far as the Omicron variant is concerned, the UKHSA does not yet have enough data to confirm the vaccine effectiveness of Moderna against Omicron.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are being offered as booster jabs, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said the two jabs should be given “equal preference”.

If you are allergic to both Pfizer and Moderna, you may be offered an alternative vaccine as a booster.

In a press conference today, Boris Johnson described the numbers of Omicron as “extraordinary” as he urged the public to get their booster jabs.

The number of Omicron cases has risen to over 10,000 in just over a fortnight since the first two cases were confirmed in the UK.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, described Omicron as “the most significant threat” of the Covid pandemic so far, due to its exponential growth rate.

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