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Omicron could act as 'natural vaccine' and speed up virus becoming endemic, experts claim

OMICRON could act as a "natural vaccine" booster and speed up the virus becoming endemic, experts have claimed.

Due to the effect of the variant being milder but able to spread easily, some experts think it could provide community immunity.

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said the idea that Omicron is a "natural vaccine" could be correct.

He told the MailOnline variants to come "may be even more mild", with jabs to protect against them only needed for the elderly ahead of winter.

This is because, much like flu, for people who are relatively fit and healthy, Omicron does not appear to pose the same risk of hospitalisation and death as previous variants.

And so catching it, while still a risk, could give an immunity boost without causing a serious illness.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

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Professor Jones added: "If Omicron is an attenuated strain already on its way to endemicity then later versions may be even more mild and the need for vaccination for an otherwise fit adult might recede.

"You have to remember that making you very sick is no good to the virus at all, all it 'wants' is to transmit, so virus evolution will tend towards a less severe strain which you will pass around as you will struggle on with work etc much as we do for common colds.

"Whatever version you were infected with your immunity would be boosted. That mild bit suits us because it means we can get immunity without, or with much less, risk."

But he warned against "chickenpox" style parties where people intentionally try to catch the virus, as people who could get seriously ill still need protection.

Boosters are the best way forward at the moment, as the UK is still seeing record highs of daily new cases and deaths.

But having a top up dose is working to stop people going to hospital, data has revealed.

Boosters give 88 per cent protection against being hospitalised with Omicron, new data showed today.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This is more promising data which reinforces just how important vaccines are. They save lives and prevent serious illness.

"This analysis shows you are up to 8 times more likely to end up in hospital as a result of Covid-19 if you are unvaccinated.

"It is never too late to come forward for your first dose and it’s vital that everyone comes forward to get boosted now as we head into the new year."

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