More than four-fifths of Omicron patients in England’s hospitals have not had their booster doses, official figures revealed today.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) bosses confirmed the toll in its weekly surveillance update, saying 608 out of 815 hospitalised patients struck down with the ultra-infectious variant were not triple-jabbed. A quarter were unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, health bosses unveiled further data showing that booster vaccines cut the risk of hospitalisation with Omicron by up to 88 per cent.
And two doses still slashed the odds by up to 72 per cent, up to nearly six months after the jab.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said today’s figures ‘reinforced’ the importance of vaccines in saving lives and preventing serious illness.
Ministers ramped up the booster drive with the aim of hitting 1million-jabs-a-day in an effort to give every eligible Briton a third jab before the end of the year and stop the NHS from being overwhelmed this Winter.
Boris Johnson today bragged about hitting that target despite figures showing 9.5million eligible adults in England are still yet to have the booster jab.
The Prime Minister is facing calls to toughen restrictions with cases having soared to record highs, and with gloomy modelling warning the nation may suffer up to 6,000 deaths a day.
]But No10 has so far resisted pleas for further action, despite Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all caving in and implementing some social restrictions ahead of New Year celebrations.
Mr Johnson is set to decide next week on whether to impose new Covid restrictions to limit indoor socialising, after warning in his message for 2022 that there will be ‘challenges’ in the weeks ahead.
Covid testing shortage could have a ‘devastating’ impact on patient care, doctors warn
Britain’s shortage of Covid swabs could have a ‘devastating’ impact on patient care in hospitals, leading doctors have warned.
Thousands of people are struggling to access lateral flow tests, which ran out again yesterday. Supply issues are expected to continue for another fortnight, with the problem having a knock-on effect on NHS staff and other vital parts of the economy.
The British Medical Association’s chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, warned the current system for ensuring doctors and medics receive the vital kits was ‘not working’.
He warned thousands of medics were unable to turn up for shifts because they could not get tested ‘at a time of acute workforce shortages and winter pressures’. He called on ministers to prioritise NHS employees for access to the swabs.
Demand for Covid swabs has spiralled amid record-breaking cases, calls to take swabs before heading out for New Year’s Eve celebrations and after the Government changed self-isolation rules to allow Britons to leave three days early if they test negative on days six and seven.
Sajid Javid warned in a letter to MPs that supplies would likely be ‘constrained’ for another fortnight because of the ‘huge demand’ for tests.
The UKHSA figures cover the period up to December 29, and include only confirmed Omicron hospitalisations in England.
The true toll will be much higher, given the variant is dominant in every region of the UK.
The figures also lay bare the importance of getting a Covid booster jab.
Professor Penny Ward, a physician at King’s College London, said the data was ‘unsurprising’ given the high level of vaccination.
She said: ‘Unsurprisingly… three quarters of the patients admitted to hospital have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
‘As the main reason for vaccination is to protect against severe illness requiring hospitalisation, everyone not yet vaccinated or that has not completed their primary course would be well advised to come forward for vaccination.
‘Those who are fully vaccinated should come forward for their booster shot.’
Official figures show more than nine in ten over-12s — or 51.7million people — have got at least one dose of the vaccine. And nearly six in ten — or 33million — have got boosters.
Because the vast majority of Britons are vaccinated, it is therefore likely that they will also make up the bulk of hospital admissions.
Dr Raghib Ali, a clinical research associate at Cambridge University, said the results were ‘encouraging’ given the high booster uptake in the highest risk groups.
He added: ‘It is also reassuring to see preliminary analysis showing a lower risk of hospital admission in school age children (less than half) for Omicron compared to Delta.
‘However, given the very high and increasing number of cases, especially in the over 60s, it is essential for everyone to keep following the public health guidance to help reduce pressure on the NHS in the coming weeks.’
The UKHSA’s analysis of vaccine effectiveness included all 528,000 Omicron cases detected last week.
It examined different combinations of vaccines and boosters in the UK against Omicron, two doses of AstraZeneca, two doses of Pfizer, and two doses of Moderna, all followed up with a either a Pfizer of Moderna booster as the third dose.
The analysis then measured these combinations against both developing a symptomatic case of the virus and being hospitlised with the virus if a person were to catch it.
Combining the findings and averaging them across all brands, the analysis found a booster jab reduced the risk of hospitlisation from Covid by 88 per cent, two weeks after it was administered, the standard time a vaccine takes to achieve maximum effectiveness.
And two doses still slashed the odds of hospitalisation by up to 72 per cent from two weeks up to 24 weeks, about five-and-half months.
Mr Javid said it marked ‘more promising data which reinforces just how important vaccines are’.
He added: ‘This analysis shows you are up to eight times more likely to end up in hospital as a result of Covid if you are unvaccinated.
‘It is never too late to come forward for your first dose and it’s vital that everyone comes forward to get boosted now as we head into the New Year.’
Susan Hopkins, chief medical officer at the UKHSA, said the figures were ‘in keeping’ with other encouraging datasets.
But she warned: ‘Rising cases in the over-60s population in England means it remains highly likely that there will be significant pressure on the NHS in the coming weeks.
‘The data once again shows that coming forward for your jab, particularly your third dose, is the best way of protecting yourself and others against infection and severe disease.’
UKHSA figures also showed 57 people have now died from the Omicron variant in the UK. The oldest individual was 99, and the youngest was 41.