Booster shots could cut Europe's COVID hospitalizations by up to 800,000 - EU

Booster shots could reduce future hospitalizations in Europe by at least half a million, the European Union's public health agency said on Thursday, even as the Omicron variant spreads at an unprecedented pace.

"The current uptake of a booster dose achieved by early January may reduce future Omicron hospital admissions by 500,000 - 800,000" in Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

The figures cover the 27-nation EU plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Currently, about 70% of the EU's population of 450 million has been fully vaccinated and half of them have received a booster.

"Extending the booster program to all previously vaccinated individuals could reduce admissions by another 300,000 - 500,000," the ECDC said.

Although Omicron cases in Europe are increasing at an unprecedented speed, with infection rates three times as high as the highest peak so far, many countries may already be at a turning point, the EU said.

"Whilst in some Member States, the peak of infection appears to have been reached recently, the pandemic is not over," EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides added.