There has been much speculation recently over the effectiveness of Covid vaccines currently rolling out across the UK. With new strains of the virus being discovered in recent months, many are concerned the vaccines, which were designed to tackle the original virus, may not be effective enough.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says the public should be confident about the vaccines being administered across the UK. This comes despite worries that the AstraZeneca vaccine may not offer much protection against the South African variant of the virus.
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Minimal protection against South African variant
Initial studies have indicated that protection against mild to moderate infection from the South African variant could be as little as 10% with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa has been suspended until further studies have taken place.
Zahawi said the vaccine does appear to provide a good level of protection against dominant strains of the virus in the UK. However, with more cases of the South African variant being discovered with no links to travel, many people are concerned. South Africa suspending the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine has added to these concerns.
Over the past week, surge testing has occurred in some UK areas where cases of the South African variant have been discovered. Worryingly, those infected with the strain had no links to travel or being around those who had travelled to other countries.
Significant implications relating to restrictions
At present, the government is awaiting advice on how to move forward based on the findings. Zahawi said manufacturers are working on updated vaccines that will offer more protection against new strains of the virus. However, at present, the main concern is with the existing vaccines already being rolled out.
Dr Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert, said there could be significant implications if the AstraZeneca vaccine is found to offer very little protection, including restrictions potentially remaining in place for longer.
Health Minister Edward Argar said although the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be as effective against mild to moderate infection, there was no evidence it did not protect against severe illness from Covid. He added the suspension of the vaccine rollout in South Africa was temporary while further research was conducted.