Health Secretary Matt Hancock says there is a “high degree of confidence” that vaccines work against the Indian Covid variant, but that it can “spread like wildfire” among those who are unvaccinated. The Mail on Sunday has the story.
The Health Secretary said that a new Oxford University investigation showed that the innoculations available were effective against the variant which is now dominant in some Northern towns.
Four people are known to have died from the Indian variant but appearing on TV this morning Mr Hancock said those who had been hospitalised were “largely people who are eligible for the vaccine but have not taken it”.
It came as Boris Johnson today pledged to increase the speed of Britain’s vaccine rollout to a million jabs a day in an attempt to beat the increasing prevalence of the variant amid fears it could derail the country’s exit from lockdown.
Appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday he said: “There’s new very early data out from Oxford University, and I would stress that this is from the labs, it’s not clinical data, and it’s very early.
“But it does give us a degree of confidence that the vaccines work against this Indian variant, but it is clearly more transmissible and has been spreading fast in the groups where there’s a cluster.
“That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease.
“We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.”
But Mr Hancock did strike a note of more caution over the final release from lockdown on June 21st, saying the final decision would not be taken until June 14th.
When talking about the final step of the “roadmap” out of lockdown, Hancock said that the Government is being “cautious” because it wants the reopening to be “irreversible”. He seemed to suggest that the June 21st date for this reopening may not be stuck to if enough people don’t get vaccinated against Covid, despite the fact that 36 million people have already had a first vaccine dose and more than 19 million (that is, those who are most vulnerable to the virus) have had a second.
New variants are one of the biggest risks to this opening because of the speed of transmission of [the Indian variant] – it can really spread like wildfire among the unvaccinated groups. Hence we need to get as many people vaccinated as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable to ending up in hospital.
The Mail on Sunday report is worth reading in full.