The new Omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected across the UK and there is early evidence of community spread. In Scotland, a handful of cases have not been traced back to travellers from South Africa, which suggests the variant is already spreading. Alarm bells have been raised over the mutations found in the variant’s spike protein. The virus uses the spike protein to gain entry into cells. Some of these mutations are associated with evading the immune response of the vaccines.
In response, the Government UK has acted swiftly and decisively, expanding the coronavirus booster vaccination campaign to those aged 18 to 39.
It is unclear how effective the current vaccines will be against the new variant but “we do know the boosters can give you a lot of protection against all types of the virus”, PM Boris said earlier.
Despite the call to arms, many people may be hesitant about getting a coronavirus booster shot owing to its possible side effects.
How do the side effects compare to the previous doses?
So far, data suggests the side effects are much of a likeness.
READ MORE: Omicron variant locations: All 15 countries that have reported the Covid variant
“As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK,” notes the UK Government’s official website.
- Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection – this tends to be worst around one to two days after the vaccine
- Feeling tired
- General aches, or mild flu like symptoms.
“You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better,” advises the UK Government’s website.
“Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for two to three days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.”
It continues: “Although a fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test.
“Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.”
Booster UK update
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) previously advised that those aged over 40 years and those at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) should be offered a booster.
In light of the emergence of the Omicron variant, JCVI has updated its advice to extend the rollout to those aged 18 to 39.
The booster will be offered in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group.
In response to the changing risk posed by the Omicron variant, the booster will now be given no sooner than three months after the primary course.
In addition, a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (30 microgram) for young people aged 12 to 15 years is advised no sooner than 12 weeks after the first dose.
The overall intention of the measures advised above is to accelerate the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and raise levels of protection across the population.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair, COVID-19 immunisation, JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.
“This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months.
“If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”
Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been shown to substantially increase antibody levels when offered as a booster dose and should be used with equal preference in the COVID-19 booster programme.