The news follows questions about the extent to which vaccines work against the South African variant, which is thought to be more transmissible than previous strains of Covid-19. Health Secretary Matt Hancock led a Government coronavirus briefing yesterday in which the issue was discussed, alongside Professor Steve Powis, Medical Director of NHS England, and Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor to Public Heath England.
Dr Hopkins was asked how confident she was that current vaccines would be effective against the South African Covid-19 strain.
She replied: “Three of the vaccines that have been used to date in the trials have shown that they’ve been effective against the South African variant at a level greater than was set as the minimum standard by WHO and the US FDA.
“We expect all other vaccines to have a similar level of effectiveness; particularly in reducing hospitalisation and death.
“And we’re doing detailed laboratory studies at the moment with the South African variant growing in the labs so that we will be able to estimate that with greater robustness over the next couple of weeks.”
It comes as Professor Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said some existing vaccines may be less effective at treating certain strains than others.
However, he said the vaccines would “hopefully” still provide sufficient levels of immunity “to prevent serious disease”.
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He added: “We are surging extra testing into the areas where this variant has been found and sequencing every single positive case.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show recently, Dr Hopkins warned the Government would have to relax current lockdown measures “really quite slowly” so they can be enforced again if necessary.
However, she added, according to the Salisbury Journal: “We have now hit 80 per cent of the over-80s being vaccinated and really fast numbers climbing in the under 80-year-old age group as well.
“We expect over the next two weeks to start seeing that impact of that vaccine in that age group, and also an impact on hospitalisation.”