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Covid Scotland: How much protection do my vaccines and booster give against Omicron?

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There are questions over how effective coronavirus vaccines are against the new Omicron variant.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed the fact that “being less effective is not the same – nowhere near the same  – as vaccines being ineffective.”

So, what is the truth about vaccines and Omicron? How effective is each vaccine at protecting us from the new strain? And what difference do boosters make?

We’re answering all your questions about vaccine efficiency and Omicron.

Pfizer

Research carried out by Discovery Health in South Africa found two doses of Pfizer provides 70% protection against being admitted to hospital due to the Omicron variant.

This is lower than the 93% protection provided against Delta, but is still far higher than having had no vaccine at all.

Pfizer have also said a third vaccine or booster is able to neutralise Omicron in a laboratory test.

This is positive news for anyone concerned about Omicron, highlighting boosters could be important in protecting against the new variant.

AstraZeneca

Less research has been carried out on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Omicron.

Preliminary results from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show a large drop in effectiveness for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the government body urges these results should be “interpreted with caution”.

This is due to the low numbers and possible biases related to the populations with highest exposure to Omicron (including travellers and their close contacts) which can’t fully be accounted for.

<br />Malaysia Kicked Off The Optional Voluntarily AstraZeneca Vaccination Programme, Bangi – 05 May 2021

The UKHSA also advises “the early observations for two doses of AstraZeneca are particularly likely to be unreliable”.

This is because findings are based on small numbers and reflect an older population more likely to be at risk of severe disease, due to the fact the AstraZeneca vaccine was stopped from being given to those under the age of 40 in the UK.

Moderna

Moderna has not yet published any official results on the efficacy of its vaccine against the Omicron strain.

However, its president, Dr Stephen Hoge, has acknowledged the likelihood current vaccines won’t be as effective against the new variant.

Boosters

While existing vaccines may be less effective at protecting against hospitalisation, this does not mean they are ineffective.

Getting your booster vaccine is one of the best ways to increase your protection against Covid – even Omicron.

Every vaccine dose you receive triggers a new round of antibody evolution within your immune system.

While the Omicron variant is heavily mutated from the original Covid strain, it still has similarities and has parts that have not changed at all.

Booster vaccination also increases the number of antibodies you have, which further helps your body fight against the virus.

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