Omicron: AstraZeneca and Oxford begin work on Covid vaccine designed to bust mutant variant driving up cases

ASTRAZENECA and Oxford have started work on a Covid jab designed to bust the Omicron strain responsible for a massive rise in cases.

Top scientists are in the early stages of creating an "updated vaccine" that works best against the highly mutated new variant ripping through Britain.

It comes as a further 90,629 Covid cases were reported across the UK on Tuesday – 15,363 of which were Omicron infections.

Boris Johnson has urged Brits to get their booster jab now to stem the surge and protect their friends and loved ones at Christmas.

But research has suggested that the immunity given by two doses of the current Oxford-AstraZeneca jab begins to wane in three months.

And other research has claimed that double-jabbed Brits don't produce enough antibodies to fight Omicron due to it's mutations.

But the antibody total increases when a third jab is given, making it more vital than ever for vaccine volunteers to sign up to The Sun's Jabs Army campaign.

Research group leader at Oxford Sandy Douglas told the Financial Times that the "preliminary steps in producing an updated vaccine" have been taken" in case it is needed".

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He stressed the same work was carried out for other strains, adding: "Adenovirus-based vaccines [such as that made by Oxford/AstraZeneca] could in principle be used to respond to any new variant more rapidly than some may previously have realised.

"[They have] really important advantages, especially where need and logistical challenges are greatest.”

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Yesterday, a study suggested that Brits who earlier tested positive for the Delta Covid variant but aren't jabbed "have very little protection against Omicron".

Top docs measured the antibody response of volunteers who had previously tested positive for the Delta strain.

When the highly infectious Omicron variant was introduced to the blood, just one in seven people made enough antibodies to attack and neutralise it.

It means that having a previous infection alone doesn't help fight against Omicron, the Austrian scientists said.

The Medical University of Innsbruck study – which did not take into account T cell and B cell immunity due to them being difficult to measure – did say that having had the Delta strain and being double jabbed makes Brits "super immune".

Of the samples of blood taken from jab-free people who previously had the Delta variant, just one in seven were able to deem Omicron – a more mutated strain – a threat.

The blood of people who had survived Delta and then got double jabbed fared much better.

Their antibody responses were around four times better than people who were double jabbed but infection-free.

Brits who got a jab then became infected with Covid fared twice as well as those who dodged a positive test all together, scientists found.

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