Although the Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to be more infectious than other variants, studies from South Africa, the UK and some EU countries show a lower risk of being hospitalised after infection with Omicron, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on January 11.
Based on these studies, the risk is currently estimated to be between a third and half of the risk with the Delta variant, the EMA said.
The EMA said that it was continuing to monitor emerging data on the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid-19, including disease caused by the Omicron variant which is now spreading rapidly across the European Union.
The agency said that results from recently published studies show that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease is lower for Omicron than for other variants and tends to wane over time. As a result, more vaccinated people are likely to develop breakthrough disease because of Omicron, it said.
“However, these studies also show that vaccination continues to provide a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalisation linked to the Omicron variant,” the EMA said.
The latest evidence, which includes real-world effectiveness data, also suggests that people who have had a booster dose are better protected than those who have only received their primary course.
Data from South Africa indicate that people who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have up to 70 per cent protection from hospitalisation. Similar data from the UK shows that while protection declines a few months after vaccination, protection from hospitalisation rises again to 90 per cent after a booster shot.
The EMA said that it would continue to review data on vaccine effectiveness and severity of the disease, as well as the evolving landscape in terms of circulating variants and natural exposure to Omicron, as they become available.
The outcome of these assessments may impact future vaccination strategies recommended by experts in EU/EEA member states, the agency said.
The EMA emphasised that vaccination remains an essential part of the approach to fighting the ongoing pandemic.
In line with recommendations by national authorities, efforts should continue to increase full vaccination uptake in individuals who are currently unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and to accelerate the roll-out of booster doses, the agency said.
(Archive photo: Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy)
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