Delta variant: Expert on vaccines’ impact on transmissibility
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Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said herd immunity is “not a possibility”. He warned the UK Government against hoping life could return to normal through vaccination.
He told MPs on the All-Party Group on Coronavirus: “We know very clearly with coronavirus that this current variant, the Delta variant, will still infect people who have been vaccinated and that does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus.”
While 60-72 percent of the population was thought to need antibodies to reach herd immunity against the original strain of coronavirus, this rose to 75-90 percent following the emergence of the Delta strain.
He said while vaccines might “slow the process” of transmission down, at the minute they cannot stop the spread completely.
Currently 89 percent of the UK adult population has had a first Covid jab.
In total 74.8 percent have had the second dose required to offer maximum protection.
When children are included, 58 percent of the UK population has been inoculated against the virus.
Sir Andrew added: “I think we are in a situation here with this current variant where herd immunity is not a possibility because it still infects vaccinated individuals.”
Last week Public Health England published early analysis of a study that found vaccinated people infected with the Delta strain may be able to spread it as easily as those yet to be immunised.
While overall risk appeared to be dramatically reduced, it appeared to indicate the variant would continue to spread.
Sir Andrew warned the ability of the Delta variant to spread in those fully jabbed also meant there was a risk of further mutations.
He predicted the next thing may be “a variant which is perhaps even better at transmitting in vaccinated populations”.
Such a change in the virus’s makeup would risk a new rise in hospitalisations and deaths.
Since the easing of restrictions in the UK eased following the rollout of jabs, infections have risen but deaths and hospitalisations have remained relatively low.
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Yesterday 25,161 new cases confirmed by a positive test were recorded.
In the same 24 hour period 37 new deaths were resisted and 744 people were admitted to hospital.
When infections were at a similar rate in January, before most adults had received two injections, Britain was seeing over 1,000 deaths a day.
Despite his warnings, when asked about a potential autumn booster vaccination campaign, Sir Andrew said “there isn’t any reason at this moment to panic”.
He said: “The decision to boost or not should be scientifically driven.
“That is not really a question of whether we see some transmission in the community – actually having cases and living with Covid is something which is the future.
“The time which we would need to boost is if we saw evidence that there was an increase in hospitalisation or people dying amongst those who are vaccinated.
“That is not something that we’re seeing at the moment.”
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