Is the vaccine rollout enough to stop further lockdowns? Jab resistant strains are a major concern

 

More than 10 million people in the UK have received both doses of the Covid vaccine, according to the latest government data. This means that more than 19% of UK adults are now fully vaccinated, while 33 million more have received a first dose. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the news as a “remarkable milestone”. Sir Simon Stevens, Managing Director of NHS England said: “The success of the NHS vaccination program is no happy accident.”

Sir Simon added: “It is thanks to careful planning coupled with the hard work and determination of the doctors, nurses and countless other staff members ably assisted by volunteers and many more.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons the government was “on track” to deliver a first dose to all British adults by the end of July.

Mr Hancock also said the jab participation rate was “surprisingly high” at 94% for all people aged 50 and over.

People aged 45 and over are now offered a Covid vaccine in England and Scotland, and the rollout is expected to continue to prioritize age groups, according to advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).

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But while the vaccine rollout is undoubtedly a success, no one knows whether the jabs will actually prove effective in stopping another lockdown or in preventing cases from spiraling out of control again.

A modeling study conducted by academics at the University of Warwick, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, showed that even if the vaccination campaign stops 85% of the transmission of Covid, there could still be 21,000 deaths if all measures social distancing are lifted.

Healthcare Workers Foundation spokesperson Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya told Express.co.uk that rolling out the vaccine is unlikely to be enough.

He said: “There is not a single intervention that prevents the spread of the coronavirus that is 100% effective.

Professor Martin Michaelis of the University of Kent told Express.co.uk: “Newer variants that may be able to infect people who have been vaccinated or who have already been infected are of even greater concern.

“Such so-called ‘escape’ variants have recently been described more and more frequently in places like Brazil, South Africa and the United States.

“The emergence of these variants is no surprise. Increased levels of immunity are associated with increased selection pressure favoring new virus variants that can bypass pre-existing immunity mediated by previous infections or vaccinations.

“If such leak variants are introduced in the UK, it could partially or largely undo our vaccine successes.”

For the best protection in the future and to avoid any further closures, the country “will have to use all the methods we have and use them in coordination,” says Dr Wijesuriya.

This includes social distancing measures, self-isolation when cases are identified and wearing face masks when traveling in public.

Dr Wijesuriya said that all of these actions working hand in hand “will really ensure that we return to a certain level of normality and that we maintain it and avoid future lockdowns”.

He concluded: “More than ever, we must not be complacent but be vigilant and ensure that we respect and use these measures.

“Managing local outbreaks with local testing and measurements as we are currently doing in South London is crucial to avoid an increase in resistant strains.”

 

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