Boris Johnson – Britain is increasingly confident that vaccines work against the coronavirus variant first found in India
Johnson has warned that the emergence of the B.1.617.2 variant might derail his plans to lift England’s lockdown fully on June 21, but on Wednesday he said the latest data had been encouraging. “We have increasing confidence vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant,” he told parliament.
Johnson last week said the extent to which the variant could disrupt the planned exit from lockdown would depend on how much more transmissible it was. British health minister Matt Hancock told a media conference there had been 2,967 cases of the variant, and reiterated that a decision on the next stage of easing of social restrictions would not take place until June 14.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the best estimate was that the Indian variant was somewhere between a few percent and 50% more transmissible, and data should provide a clearer picture next week.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said that the initial rapid growth of B16172 had been among people who had travelled and who had a higher chance of living in multi-generational households or in deprived areas, and the ease of transmission might not be replicated in other settings.
On Wednesday Britain recorded another 2,696 cases of Covid-19 and three more deaths, taking the total to 127,694, one of the world’s worst tolls. The health secretary also announced that Britain is launching a “world first” study into administering a booster shot, based on trials of seven coronavirus vaccines currently approved in Western countries. Nearly 3,000 participants will take part in the trial from early June and findings are expected in September to inform policymaking on whether a third shot is needed for the winter months, when respiratory infections spike.