First signs booster jabs ARE effective against Omicron variant, claim scientists

PEOPLE who have had their coronavirus booster vaccine are protected against the new Omicron variant, scientists have claimed.

Scientists are currently working around the clock to determine how dangerous Omicron is and more data is set to come out in the following days.

But experts in Israel have said that people who have had their boosters and who have been double jabbed with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the last six months would be protected.

Health minister Nitzan Horowitz yesterday said initial indications state that vaccines would shield people from severe infections.

Mr Horowitz did not reference any specific scientific data or report but told reporters: "There is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine still valid or with a booster, will also be protected from this variant."

Hours after Mr Horowitz's comments, Israel's Channel 12 news said that Omicron is just 30 per cent more infectious than the Delta variant, reported.

The channel also stated that jabs were 90 per cent effective against Omicron, but that data has yet to have been verified by Israeli health officials.

Israel has been boosting it's entire adult population since the summer months so has a big pool of data available when it come to comparing how much of an impact vaccines have on Omicron and other strains.

The UK government has this week extended its booster campaign to include all adults.

If you're 40 years or older then you can book through the national booking system or go to a walk-in centre.

If you are 18-39 you will need to wait for the NHS to send your invitation for the vaccine.

The co-founder of BioNTech has urged people to 'not freak out' over the variant and has said people should continue to come forward for their vaccines in order to stay protected.

Dr Ugur Sahin did however admit that the variant will probably cause breakthrough infections at a higher rate than Delta.

"Don't freak out, the plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot", he said.

He explained that if someone who is double vaccinated or boosted is infected by Omicron then it would be 'neutralised' by their immune systems.

🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news

Studies have shown that boosters give over 90 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid-19 in adults over 50.

Dr Sahin said it was unlikely that Omicron would be able to evade a second layer of protection.

He explained: "If a virus achieves immune escape, it achieves it against antibodies, but there is the second level of immune response that protects from severe disease – the T-cells,' he said.

"Even as an escape variant, the virus will hardly be able to completely evade the T-cells."

Experts at Pfizer previously said that they would be able to tweak the vaccine within weeks in the event that it was not effective against Omicron.

But experts at jab-maker Moderna said that this could be between 60 and 90 days and the chief of the company yesterday said vaccines could be eight times less effective against Omicron.

CEO Stephane Bancel has said that vaccine efficacy could go down due to the mutations that the strain has.

He added: "I don’t believe many people would have predicted such a big jump in evolution in one variant.

"If you look at the new virus it has the delta mutation, it has the beta mutation, and many more, 32 mutations.

"It’s hard to know, are we going to lose 5x or 8x of the antibody levels. We all need to be patient and see the data", he told CNBC's Squawk Box show.

Experts at the University of Oxford, which developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab said it could "rapidly update" its vaccine "if it should be necessary".

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