Omicron: can boosters stop the new wave?

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus discovered in November is considerably more contagious than the Delta variant, which already spread faster than earlier strains. Experts expect it to become dominant in Europe soon - and perhaps as early as this week in the UK and Denmark. As the protection offered by double doses of the available vaccines is thought to fade after a few months, many countries are accelerating efforts to have their populations receive booster jabs. Europe's press debates the merits of this approach.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Right move but not enough

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants all fully vaccinated adults to receive a booster jab by the end of December. The Financial Times is sceptical:

“The move is the right one; it is better to act decisively against a virus surge and then ease measures if warranted than to be too slow, which - as the UK knows from bitter experience - can cost thousands more lives. Yet further social distancing measures are still likely to be required. And the government's capacity to act is constrained by its current political turmoil. The booster drive will, to be sure, impose great strain on an exhausted NHS. ... If the government can get anywhere near its target, the risk of the health service being overwhelmed will be much less.”

The Independent (GB) /

Too late and chaotic

Johnson is making last-minute decisions again, The Independent criticises:

“Boris Johnson gave the NHS little advance warning of this new national vaccine booster mission. Why wasn't the health service made aware of what would be expected of it - jabbing all adults over 18 in England by the end of the month, meaning more than 1 million people a day - weeks ago? If it had been, we perhaps wouldn't be facing a crashing NHS website and no lateral flow tests. As so often in the past, the prime minister is now having to rely on the health service and the military to rescue him from the consequences of his own mistakes. They'll try, as they always do, because they are dedicated and put public service first - unlike the man in No 10.”

Visão (PT) /

Further protective measures needed

Boosters won't create herd immunity either, writes Visão:

“Portugal ranks third in vaccination coverage and more than 70 percent of those over 65 have already received their third dose. The country is proof of how vaccinations can't contain or eradicate Covid or its two most dangerous variants. ... The second, more dangerous conclusion that follows from the first is that the vaccinated, even those who have received the third dose, still become infected and spread the virus. This proves that the basic protective measures, such as the use of masks, must be maintained and in some cases reinforced.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

No end of uncertainties

Ilta-Sanomat wants faster access to boosters for all those willing to have them:

“There is currently a strange division in Finland. There are those who don't want to be vaccinated against Covid, not even once, and nobody knows how to get them to have the jab. It is mainly because of them that we could end up in a situation where the government has to adopt Covid restrictions that affect everyone. And then there are those who want the third jab as soon as possible but are not yet getting it. The recommendations on this are unclear and there is no consensus on the pace at which the younger age groups should be vaccinated. Moreover, there is currently also not enough vaccine in the Finnish stockpiles to give everyone a booster. But can that be a reason to delay it for the first non-risk groups?”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Chinese vaccine offers weaker protection

The first jabs of CoronaVac were administered in Turkey at the beginning of 2021, while Biontech only became available months later. Now not enough people are getting Biontech, the far more effective mRNA vaccine, as their booster, Hürriyet warns:

“We know from all the statements by scientists that the resistance offered by the first and second vaccine doses, especially those with inactivated vaccines from China, begins to diminish rapidly if the third dose is not administered in time. ... In addition, professional associations are concerned about the growing number of deaths from Covid-19 in pregnant women, who have a very low vaccination rate overall. It has therefore become necessary to give special priority to vaccinations of pregnant women and to quickly organising the corresponding campaigns.”