In response to the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, UK governments have sped up their plans for booster jabs and reviewed their safety guidance.
What do we already know about the new variant? How can you manage risk from COVID-19? And what changes do we want to see for people with MS?
The new Omicron variant of coronavirus
There’s lots we still don’t know about the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, but we’ll keep you up to date as we learn more. In the coming weeks we expect to learn if Omicron:
- spreads more easily than other versions of the virus
- is more or less likely to cause severe illness
- is more likely to get past our immune defences if we’ve had the current vaccines
Managing your risk from COVID-19
Until we know more, it’s especially important to keep yourself and others as safe as possible.
We’ve worked with our medical advisers to help you work out your own level of risk from COVID-19, and measures you can take. This takes into account risk factors like your age, how MS affects you, any MS treatments you take, and whether you’ve been fully vaccinated.
Vaccines and the Omicron variant
Getting your COVID-19 and seasonal flu jabs can significantly reduce your chances of catching these viruses and getting severely ill from them.
The government vaccine advisers (the JCVI) say that current vaccines could also give some protection against the Omicron variant. We’ll discover more about that level of protection in the coming weeks.
All the available COVID-19 vaccines are very effective against the Delta variant. And that’s the most common version of coronavirus in the UK at the moment.
If you’ve not already had your first (“primary”) doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you can still arrange that, as well as a free flu jab.
Booster jabs – sped up and confirmed for everyone
Plans for booster jabs have been sped up. So you might be called for that top-up dose as soon as 3 months after your primary doses. Each UK nation is working out exactly how it will deliver boosters as quickly as possible.
Boosters will be available for anyone over 18, including if you’ve had a “third primary dose” of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Booster jabs keep up the vaccine’s level of protection, which otherwise fades over time.
Changes we want to see for people with MS
We know lots of people with MS are worried about how the new Omicron variant might affect things.
We’re in regular contact with people with MS, national governments, the Association of British Neurologists and our own medical advisers to understand the situation and improve the support available.
We’re pleased that the booster jab will be offered to all adults, including people who have a third primary dose. But we’ve also made it clear to governments that they must keep vulnerable people front of mind and protect them at all costs. For example, by giving people the right to work from home.
We met with the UK government’s Vaccine Minister on Tuesday 1 December and raised these concerns along with representatives of other high-risk groups.
Everyone can help keep others safe by wearing face coverings, testing themselves frequently and continuing to social distance. We support the Not Too Much To Mask campaign.