Three Covid vaccine doses 'enough to protect against omicron variant', early research suggests

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  • Nitzan Horowitz
    Israeli journalist and politician
  • Naftali Bennett
    Prime Minister of Israel
 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and his Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (R) during a press conference regarding the new corona variant in Tel Aviv, Israel, 26 November 2021. Bennett expressed concerns over the Covid variant B.1.1.529 emerging in South Africa which was also detected in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Tel Aviv, Israel - Shutterstock
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and his Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (R) during a press conference regarding the new corona variant in Tel Aviv, Israel, 26 November 2021. Bennett expressed concerns over the Covid variant B.1.1.529 emerging in South Africa which was also detected in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Tel Aviv, Israel - Shutterstock

Israel has said that early research suggests two to three doses of a Covid vaccine are effective against the new omicron variant which has alarmed scientists worldwide.

Nitzan Horowitz, the country's health minister, said that there was "room for optimism" that current vaccines worked on omicron based on "initial indications."

“The situation is under control, there is no need for panic,” said Mr Horowitz. “We expected a new variant, and we’re ready… in the next few days we will have more precise information about the vaccine’s effectiveness, but early indications show that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine which is still valid or who have a booster are most likely protected against this variant."

The minister did not elaborate on the data the Israeli government has seen.

Separately, a report by the Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 said the Pfizer vaccine was understood to be 90 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic cases of omicron. 

It was unclear where the findings by Channel 12 came from, and the Israeli government said it was not in possession of the data used in its report. 

The report also stated that omicron is only 30 per cent more effective than the delta variant, which was lower than some experts had feared. 

Watch: Vaccines could be required annually - Pfizer

It came as the Israeli doctor who caught the Omicron variant at a medical conference in London said the lack of masks on public transport may have caused the infection.

Dr Elad Maor, who is 45 and has received three doses of a Covid vaccine, told the Telegraph he was frustrated to see so many people going maskless on the London tube and DLR.

He said: "I am very frustrated and feel uncomfortable with people who do not wear masks and are reckless. You can see that many people were not wearing masks.I was using the tube and the DLR. Many people in the tubes were not wearing masks.

"I don't know where I got it, but I feel like if all were wearing masks then the risk of getting it would be smaller."

The cardiologist took extreme care to avoid catching or spreading Covid during his trip. He tested negative for Covid-19 prior to leaving Israel and also tested negative both before his return trip and upon landing in Israel.

He also wore a face mask, but said he wished he had used a more protective N-95 mask.

Dr Maor said he began to feel unwell on Friday, after returning to Israel, and spent 48 hours in bed with flu-like symptoms including fatigue, a cough and a sore throat. He added that he was still feeling "weak" and hoped to recover soon.

"I was questioned by the ministry of health in Israel once I was positive. They specifically asked me about the flight, what the seat was, and the flight number. I don't know if they contacted the ministry of health in London."

The medical conference, PCR Online, was attended by around 1,000 people, mainly from European and Mediterranean countries.

Before he developed symptoms, Dr Maor said he had infected Dr Dan Elian, also a cardiologist at the same hospital.

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