We’re confident vaccines will be effective against all variants, says Prime Minister

COVID vaccine: Variants that beat jabs 'will appear' says expert

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Raising hopes that his roadmap out of lockdown remains on track, the Prime Minister yesterday told MPs that latest scientific evidence showed the injections are working to curb the pandemic. The spread of the Indian variant, with almost 3,000 confirmed cases of it across the UK, has raised fears that England’s timetable out of Covid-19 restrictions could be delayed.

And last night the PM urged people to “keep getting your jab” after official figures revealed that seven out of 10 Britons have now had at least one dose of virus-
tackling vaccine.

People aged 34 and 35 are expected to start getting invitations from the NHS to have their first jabs from today.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said he had been given fresh data about the spread of the virus yesterday morning.

He said: “I can tell the House that we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant.”

He praised residents in areas hit by surges in the Indian strain for taking part in the accelerated jabs effort.

The Prime Minister said: “In this context, I want particularly to thank the people of Bolton, Blackburn and many other places who have been coming forward in record numbers to get vaccinated –to get their first and second jabs.

“I think that the numbers have doubled in Bolton alone, and the people of this country can be proud of their participation.”

Official figures published yesterday showed health services across the UK have administered a total of 57.8 million vaccines.

Nearly 37 million adults in the UK have had their first dose (70.2 percent) while 20.8 million (39.6 percent) have had two doses.

Hailing the latest milestone in the country’s vaccination programme, Mr Johnson said: “Seven in 10 adults in the UK have now had the first dose of the vaccine.

“It’s a monumental achievement and my thanks go to all the healthcare workers, Armed Forces personnel and volunteers who have made this possible. Please keep getting your jab when called.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also confirmed at a Downing Street news conference last night that data suggested Covid vaccines were proving effective.

He said early evidence suggests the Indian variant passes on more easily from person to person than the Kent strain, which emerged at the end of last year.

He said: “But as the Prime Minister said at lunchtime, we have increasing confidence that the vaccines are effective against it.

“That means our strategy is the right one – to carefully replace the restrictions on freedom with the protection from the vaccine.”

Yesterday’s daily death toll from Covid-19 was three.

The Health Secretary urged people in areas hit by surges in the Indian variant to, “exercise caution, get a test, and as soon as you’re eligible, get the jab”. 

A total of 2,967 cases of the Indian variant had been recorded in the UK by last night, up by around 600 since Monday.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told the news conference that the battle against the Indian variant was “not a game lost”.

She said: “We are in a completely different place to where we were last year – our genomics testing is probably the best in the world.

“With that precise testing, we can follow up chains of transmission and undertake very enhanced contact tracing, so people are door-to-door, working in these areas to support individuals.”

She added: “It is not a game lost at all, it is very much one to fight and there are high resources and a huge amount of effort, particularly from the public, in all of these areas, and we should continue.”

Earlier, Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group, said there was a “glimmer of hope” that the spread of the Indian strain appeared to be flattening.

He explained: “It was introduced from overseas, principally into people with Indian ethnicity, a higher chance of living in multi-generational households and often in quite deprived areas with high density housing, and so we’re trying to work out whether the rapid growth we’ve seen in areas such as Bolton is going to be typical of what we could expect elsewhere, or is really what is called a founder effect, often seen in these circumstances.

“There’s a little bit of, I would say, a glimmer of hope from the recent data that while this variant does still appear to have a significant growth advantage…the curves are flattening a little. But it will take more time for us to be definitive about that.”

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