Covid: Two Pfizer doses give 70% protection against hospitalisation with Omicron, study suggests

Credit: PA

Two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine have given 70% protection against hospitalisation in South Africa in recent weeks, a study has shown.

The study, released by Discovery Health, South Africa's largest private health insurance administrator, was based on more than 211,000 positive coronavirus test results from 15 November to December 7, with around 78,000 attributed to the Omicron variant.

Analysis of the results suggested that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offered 70% protection against hospitalisation compared with the unvaccinated during the recent rise in cases - and 33% protection against infection.

This compares to the 90% efficacy of the vaccine against hospital admission during South Africa’s outbreak of the Delta variant.

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Protection against hospital admission remains stable across those between 18 and 79-years-old, according to analysis of the data.

But these findings should be considered preliminary, Discovery Health cautioned.

The World Health Organization, which has designated the Omicron variant as one of "concern", warned on Monday that the strain, now detected in 63 countries, poses a “very high” global risk.

The new variant was first detected by researchers in Southern Africa in November.

Parliament will vote on the UK government's strategy to counter the Omicron variant on Tuesday, with a significant Conservative rebellion expected over the 'Plan B' measures- which include Covid status certification and new face mask rules.

Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency estimated there were 200,000 infections a day. Credit: PA

It comes after Sajid Javid warned the UK is in a race against the variant after Boris Johnson issued a plea to the nation on Sunday evening, warning the public of a "tidal wave of Omicron" that could cause "very many deaths".The health secretary has told MPs that the strain represents around 20% of cases in England.

On Monday, the UK recorded 54,661 new coronavirus cases and a further 38 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to government statistics. There are 4,713 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant but Mr Javid said the UK Health Security Agency estimated the current number of daily infections was around 200,000.

To limit the effects of the variant's spread, the government is aiming to vaccinate a million people every day, starting this week, if the UK is to reach another ambitious target of having offered all eligible over 18s a booster jab before the end of the year.