Coronavirus: Spread of COVID-19 variants discussed by expert
Earlier this month, rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 jab began in the UK, with over 600,000 doses administered so far. Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old UK grandmother, became the first person in the world to receive the jab under mass vaccination.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the first jabs marked “the start of a fightback against our common enemy: the coronavirus”.
However, experts have stressed it is not known whether the jab will prevent virus transmission, with one warning the vaccine on its own may not be enough to fully restore normality.
There is also uncertainty surrounding how long any immunity granted by the vaccine will last, according to Dr Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent’s Industrial Biotechnology Centre.
The UK’s vaccine rollout began earlier this month
He told Express.co.uk: “Depending on the level of long-term protection and the virus behaviour, it is well possible that we will need yearly COVID-19 vaccination programmes in the future.
“It is not clear how long vaccine-induced immunity will last and if new virus strains that will escape the vaccine-induced immune response will emerge.
“Vaccines are important, but on their own they may not be enough to get us to some sort of normal. However, they will enable us to bring the case numbers down.”
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Matt Hancock expressed optimism for Spring 2021 earlier this month
Indeed, only this week authorities in the UK reported the detection of a new strain of Covid-19 in the south-east of England – though there is no indication this will interfere with how the vaccine works.
In any case, Dr Michaelis said the vaccines, alongside increased mass testing, would allow the Government to get Covid-19 cases low enough that infected individuals could be effectively tracked and isolated.
He pointed to countries such as New Zealand and Taiwan as examples of having effective tracking and isolation programmes, despite the absence of a vaccine.
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The UK this week recorded over 50,000 coronavirus cases in a single day
Taiwan has been hailed as a coronavirus success story, having reported just 795 confirmed cases and only seven deaths.
Yesterday, the nation announced two new cases of Covid-19. Both had been imported from other countries, and one was sent to an ‘epidemic prevention hotel’ upon arrival.
Dr Michaelis continued: “With vaccines, we should definitely be able to achieve what these countries already have achieved without vaccines.”
Pedestrians in Taiwan’s capital Taipei. Taiwan continues to record very, very few coronavirus cases
UK coronavirus map
He added it is “difficult” to say exactly when Covid-19 will be under the same degree of control in the UK as it is in countries like Taiwan.
Warm weather in spring could be an alleviating factor, when Britons begin to spend more time outdoors.
Dr Michaelis said the nation should be able to feel an “additional impact” of the vaccine’s potential effectiveness by Easter, when he expects around a third of the population to have received it.
Many parts of the UK are now in Tier 4 restrictions due to cases
He concluded: “In the end, I think we will need to vaccinate 80% or more of the population.”
Matt Hancock has said he hopes restrictions could start to be lifted by spring next year as more people are inoculated.
The Government’s latest coronavirus data shows there were 53,135 new cases reported yesterday with 414 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
There were 272,551 new cases over the past seven days – a rise of 22.7 percent from the seven days prior to that.