The Omicron variant is likely to become the dominant strain in Australia and a third booster Covid-19 vaccine dose is needed to get high protection.
The Omicron variant of the Covid-19 case numbers in New South Wales jumped again on Wednesday to 1,360, 25 of them are from the Kirby Institute. There are 89 Omicron cases in the state.
Boosters may be required every six months to protect against the variant.
The Kirby Institute presented new data on Wednesday after growing the Omicron variant in a laboratory and testing how it responded to various samples, including from those who had recovered from the virus but were unvaccinated, and those who had recovered from the virus.
All chief health officers in Australia have received the data.
Omicron infections could reach 1m a day in the UK by the end of the year.
The end of December is known as the "UK-omicron-infections-one-million-a-day-end-december-covid-christmas"
The first two people identified with the Omicron variant in Australia were obtained from the laboratory by Stuart Turville. They arrived in Australia from Doha and were fully protected.
Turville said they were as infectious as unvaccinated people.
He said that they knew that the most evasive variant they had come across was called "Beta".
We saw zero protection with the antibodies from double-vaccinated donors, regardless of the type of vaccine. We don't need to talk about Pfizer or AstraZeneca.
He said that the two travellers probably had a poor vaccine response and that the two doses of the vaccine didn't offer any protection against Omicron. The Kirby data predicts a 37% reduction in the incidence of infections for those who are double-dosed.
There is still some protection against severe disease and hospitalisation that is afforded from those vaccines, according to Dr Deborah Cromer, group leader in infection epidemiology.
She said that getting a third booster shot with an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna results in high levels of protection against disease and severe disease.
It's too early to know how Omicron will react to the vaccine because there are not enough samples from people with three doses. The Kirby Institute hopes to have ethics approval and enough study participants to begin taking samples from those who have had three doses.
The researchers mimicked the impact of a booster shot against Omicron by seeing how samples from people who had the virus and therefore had natural antibodies, and then who had also received a double-dose of the vaccine, responded to the variant.
Turville said that it does inhibit the virus. The effectiveness of protecting cells against infections has dropped by an average of 22-fold.
It appeared likely that ongoing boosters would be needed against Omicron as frequently as every six months, even though it seemed that this booster may offer protection for at least one or two years.
We don't know what other variant will emerge, so we will need another booster in six months. We have to focus on the data we have at the moment.
Turville said that it was likely that the variant would overtake Delta.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has not ruled out making a third shot compulsory to take part in thevaccinated economy.
Guardian Australia asked the federal health minister if the government is considering mandating a third dose for full vaccination in light of the Kirby Institute data, but he has yet to reply. Hunt has said that a third dose won't be mandatory for overseas travel, though some countries have made a booster shot required before allowing entry.
The president of the Australian Medical Association warned that the booster program was being rolled out too slowly and that vaccination hubs needed to continue.
He said that by the end of the month four million people will be eligible for the booster, however, Australia only administered 210,000 of the doses in the last week.
The latest strain of Covid-19, Omicron, poses a significant risk to the population and appears more transmissible than previous strains, so we have to pick up the pace to protect the community.
The Kirby Institute researchers did not want to give any advice about boosters. The Australian Technical Advisory Group for Immunisation (Atagi), which advises the government on vaccination, would consider Kirby data along with data from other research groups.