In order to raise levels of protection across the population against the Omicron variant, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)1 of UK has recommended that the booster programme should be expanded to include all remaining adults aged 18 and above. JCVI had previously advised that those aged over 40 years and those at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) should be offered a booster.
This latest advice makes everyone aged 18 and above in the UK eligible for booster doses however administration of the booster will be prioritised according to age and medical conditions, those at higher risk will be given preference. In similar vein, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 has recommended booster shot for everyone aged 18 and above in light of the recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).
Further, according to UK Government statement3, there are indications that the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has higher transmissibility. The current vaccines may be less effective against this variant. Also, the effectiveness of Ronapreve, one of major treatments of COVID-19 introduced recently may be impacted. Ronapreve (casirivimab/imdevimab), a monoclonal antibody medicine had received EMA4 authorisation for treatment of COVID-19 recently on 11 November 2021.
On a related note, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)5 has reported detection of 33 confirmed Omicron cases (As of 29 November 2021) in eight European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries (Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal). These cases were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. No severe case or death has been reported so far. Cases have been reported in seven non-EU countries in Australia, Botswana, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa and United Kingdom.
- UK Govt. Press release – JCVI advice on COVID-19 booster vaccines for those aged 18 to 39 and a second dose for ages 12 to 15. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jcvi-advice-on-covid-19-booster-vaccines-for-those-aged-18-to-39-and-a-second-dose-for-ages-12-to-15
- CDC. Media Statement -CDC Expands COVID-19 Booster Recommendations. Published 29 November 2021. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1129-booster-recommendations.html
- UK Govt. Oral statement to Parliament Oral statement to update on the Omicron variant. Published 29 November 2021. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/oral-statement-to-update-on-the-omicron-variant
- COVID-19: EMA recommends authorisation of two monoclonal antibody medicines https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/covid-19-ema-recommends-authorisation-two-monoclonal-antibody-medicines
- ECDC. Newsroom – Epidemiological update: Omicron variant of concern (VOC) – data as of 29 November 2021 (12:30). Available at https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/epidemiological-update-omicron-data-29-november-2021