Nadhim Zahawi yesterday told MPs that if a new variant of the virus was found to be less responsive to the vaccine then measures have been put in place to produce the “next iteration” of vaccines. “We want to be able to rapidly be able to produce the next iteration manufacturer and be ready for if the vaccine does mutate to a level where we do you need the next iteration of a vaccine,” he told a hearing of the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Mr Zahawi added: “There’s no evidence suggests that the current vaccines will not be effective against the current mutations that we have.
“Scientists at Porton Down are looking at both the Kent variant – which has been so infectious – and the South African variant.
“We have to be ready for that what if question: What if there is a variant that that the vaccines don’t work as well on?
“We have to be ready for that and we can be ready within a period of sort of 30 to 40 days, we would have the next vaccine being manufactured
“We’ve invested, not just in infrastructure, but in thinking through how we would do that.”
Mr Zahawi said also told the committee that his “instinct” was that frontline key workers would be next in line for the vaccine after the most at-risk were immunised but said the Government would be guided by its Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunization.
“The reason the JCVI have given us the priority list, the nine categories, is because actually the thing you want to do is to cut mortality – people dying from the virus,” he told the committee.
“The JCVI are best-placed to look at this in terms of looking at where do we go next.
“Now, my instinct is to say, rightly so that those who are most likely to come into contact with a viral load: teachers, shop workers policemen and women would be the highest risk of getting the virus, and therefore they’re the ones we should focus on, but I would very much be guided by the JCVI.”