Booster Jabs And Omicron: Everything You Need To Know

From how to get your jab, to how effective it'll be.
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Cases of the Omicron variant are rising in the UK, and 4,713 cases have been recorded so far. On Sunday Night, Boris Johnson announced that from this week, anyone over the age of 18 will be offered a booster jab. The booster programme will run right through the festive period to meet the government’s new deadline of offering everyone over 18 a jab by the new year.

The prime minister announced the speed-up in an address to the nation, citing fears of a “tidal wave of Omicron” that could cause “very many deaths”. Omicron is currently infecting 200,000 people a day across the UK, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The Omicron variant now represents more than 20% of coronavirus cases in England, health secretary Sajid Javid added. Former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi also confirmed there are now Omicron cases in hospitals. Zahawi said there was now a race between ramping up the booster programme and the variant, which he said would soon overtake Delta as the dominant force in the UK.

As we mix with older more vulnerable family members this Christmas, getting a booster jab should be all of our priorities. But how do we go about getting one, and will the boosters be effective?

Who is eligible for a booster jab?

As of Monday December 13, every adult over the age of 18 is eligible for a booster jab if they’ve had their second jab three months prior.

The jab was previously available to anyone over the age of 40, healthcare workers and other individuals with underlying health conditions which put them at risk of serious illness if they catch Covid.

How can I get my booster jab?

If you’re eligible you can book your jab through the NHS online booking system, although many users have reported technical difficulties when trying to book. Downing Street revealed that 110,000 people booked a booster jab before 9am on Monday.

Alternatively, you can get your booster jab at a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site if you’ve had your second dose at-least three months ago.

But be warned, the news of booster jabs sparked a rush on vaccine centres. Some people said they’d been waiting in queues for more than three hours to get vaccinated. When asked if vaccines were going to be offered on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “Vaccinations will continue to be offered throughout the Christmas period.”

Why do boosters work if two jabs don’t?

The BBC reported that two vaccines won’t offer much protection against the Omicron variant but they should limit the risk of hospitalisation. The vaccines were created to fight the first infections of the virus that came two years ago.

However, a booster jab can leave you with more protection against the new variant. Antibodies need to learn how to fight off the virus. Every dose of the jab triggers a further round of antibody evolution in your immune system. It seeks out better antibodies that attach themselves closer to the virus. This process is called affinity maturation.

How effective are booster jabs and will they protect me from the Omicron variant?

Experts have said that booster vaccines may well offer good protection in the face of the Omicron variant.

A team studying the effects of third doses said the body’s T cell immune response after a booster shot may provide protection from hospital admission and death.

The latest CovBoost trial, published in the Lancet, shows that six different vaccines are safe and effective as booster doses for people who have already had two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech.

“All of the vaccines in our study do show a statistically significant boost,” said Professor Saul Faust, trial lead and director of the NIHR Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, added: “The data clearly shows that all boosters provided a lift to at least one aspect of your Covid immunity, and that side effects were, on the whole, mild.”