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Covid vaccine will work against Indian variant – Boris urged to continue easing lockdown

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The government is now urged to “hold its nerve” and continue easing restrictions. Fears over the Covid variants were dismissed as ‘Scaremongering” and “pessimistic” by the experts because no strain to date has significantly evaded the vaccine or the immune system. New variants occur all the time and the vaccines being currently rolled out will prevent severe illness, it was argued.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that the Indian variant could pose “serious disruption” to lockdown easing on June 21 after modelling data suggested it could be more transmissible.

Experts have urged a cautious approach, warning current vaccines may be less effective at preventing mild cases or reducing the spread of the Indian variant.

However, Professor Anthony Brookes at the University of Leicester said all known Covid-19 strains differ only marginally at a genetic level and said that simply because a variant spread more quickly in one country did not mean it would behave the same way in another.

Instead, environment and behaviour has as much impact on which strains spread and become dominant over others, he said.

He said: “Recent government statements about the Indian variant could well be viewed as both pessimistic and scaremongering.”

“There will be a constant churn in which strains are most successful at different times and places – exactly as we have seen since the start of the pandemic.

“These incremental changes occur as the virus evolves and are really not large enough to make the immune system dramatically unable to recognise them.

“The Indian variant may or may not have a small transmission advantage over the predominant ‘Kent’ strain in the specific current UK setting, but the data are not especially troubling.

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“It does not change the way vaccines work which is to prevent severe infection keeping the risk of Covid comparable to other respiratory viruses which we already live with.”

Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said vaccines would lessen the impact but urged caution as lockdown eased.

He added that the vaccines could be less effective at stopping the transmission of the new strain.

He said: “I think the vaccines will help in terms of dampening down the spread of this virus but we do need to be vigilant and we just need to see what happens over the next few weeks.”

He said the situation was different to January because we now have a “highly vaccinated population.”

However, he added vaccines “may be less effective against mild disease but we don’t think they’re less effective against severe disease”.

“But in combination with being less effective against mild disease, they’re almost certainly less effective against transmission.”

Sir Mark Walport, of Sage, said the PM was “right to be very concerned with what was going on.”

He told BBC Breakfast: “The race between the virus and the vaccination has just intensified and there is a high degree of scientific confidence that this new variant is up to 50% more transmissible than the previous B117 variant.

“So, if you like, the knife edge on which the race sits has just sharpened.”

He added people should not stop taking precautions even following vaccinations and said: “Just because someone can do something doesn’t mean we should.

“So as far as possible, if we can use the benefits of fresh air and meet people outside, that makes a lot of sense.”



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