Matt Hancock says Oxford vaccine ‘works and works very well’
The Prime Minister announced the vaccination campaign had reached a colossal 10 million jabs, while officials insisted the UK was “past the peak” of the second wave. He promised that his Government could now “begin to chart a way out” of lockdown following a drop in the infection rate, coupled with scientific evidence confirming vaccines DO curb Covid transmission. Mr Johnson added: “With every jab and every day, we have more evidence about the effectiveness of these vaccines.”
And a senior scientist on the Oxford vaccine team said the virus could be reduced to the level of the common cold by a successful vaccine programme.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty confirmed that the UK was now past the peak of the second wave as figures yesterday showed the NHS had managed to vaccinate 10,021,471 people by Tuesday.
That included almost nine out of 10 people aged 75 and over in England.
Full of praise, the PM said: “We have passed the milestone of 10 million vaccinations in the United Kingdom, including almost 90 per cent of those aged 75 and over in England and every eligible person in a care home.” He thanked all those involved in the effort, including manufacturers, delivery drivers, pharmacists, military medics, doctors, nurses and countless volunteers.
Mr Johnson said evidence was increasingly showing that the vaccines reduce death and serious illness from the major variants of Covid.
The UK has reached 10 million jabs
He promised to publish new data over the next fortnight “so that we can begin to chart a way ahead”.
He added: “Though today there are some signs of hope – the numbers of Covid patients in hospital are beginning to fall for the first time since the onset of this new wave – the level of infection is still alarmingly high.”
The daily death toll rose by 1,322 yesterday and new infections recorded in the past 24 hours stood at 19,202.
Prof Whitty said the number of positive Covid tests was “going down steadily”.
He said: “There is now a continual steady decline thanks to the work of everyone in the entire country in avoiding unnecessary contact.”
Boris Johnson says experts are learning more about the jab each day
Numbers of people in hospital with Covid had decreased from its peak “quite noticeably”. Prof Whitty added: “This is still a major problem but one that is heading in the right way.”
Asked if the second coronavirus wave had passed its peak, the Chief Medical Officer said cautiously: “I think that most of my colleagues think we are past the peak.
“Now, that doesn’t mean you could never have another peak.
“But, at this point in time, provided people continue to follow the guidelines, we’re on the downward slope of cases, of hospitalisations and of deaths, in all four of the nations of the United Kingdom.
“So I think, at this point, this peak at least, we are past.” Andrew Pollard, a member of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine team, said the virus could end up “like other viruses that are around us all the time”.
Social distancing rules are starting to see a reduction in infections
He said he is confident that they will be able to handle the mutations which have developed.
Mr Pollard said the team expected the vaccine to be capable of dealing with the Kent variant and would eventually reduce the virus to the level of “colds and mild infections”.
He added: “It’s likely over time that the virus will find ways of adapting so it can continue to pass between people.
“But that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection.
“The virus is about being able to continue to survive, rather than trying to cause harm to us.
“One of the things that we know about these new variants is that they are making changes that allow them to avoid human immune responses so that they can still transmit.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was delighted with the 10 million jab milestone.
Matt Hancock said the jab news was a terrific achievement
He said: “This terrific achievement is testament to the monumental effort of NHS workers, volunteers and the Armed Forces who have been working tirelessly in every corner of the UK to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history.
“Every jab makes us all a bit safer. I want to thank everyone playing their part.
“Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic.
“The national effort we have seen right across the United Kingdom means the majority of our most vulnerable people are now inoculated against this awful disease.
“The UK Government has worked rapidly to secure and deliver doses to all of the UK, demonstrating the strength of our union and what we can achieve together.”
Yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel saw the “fantastic” work of NHS staff and volunteers at a new vaccination centre set up in the suburb of Neasden, north-west London.
NHS staff were praised for their hard work
She said: “My message to communities across the country is simple.
“The vaccine is safe and getting a jab will help protect you and your loved ones.” Officials said the vaccination programme continues to expand, with thousands of vaccination centres opening.
These range from GP and pharmacy-led services to hospitals and large-scale vaccination centres.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The UK’s vaccination programme is in full swing and almost one in five adults across the UK are already protected from serious illness.
“The NHS is doing everything it can to protect the most vulnerable and will continue to expand the vaccination programme ever further in the coming weeks to save as many lives as possible.”
Meanwhile, figures yesterday highlighted the effect of a single vaccine dose.
The rate of healthcare workers testing positive dropped by 50 per cent just 12 days after they received a first dose, the Zoe Covid Symptom Infection Survey found.
Tim Spector, who is leading the survey at King’s College London, said it was “fantastic news”.
Studies have been continually assessing how effective vaccines are after a single dose and with a 12-week gap between doses.
Oxford University researchers indicated their vaccine offers protection of 76 per cent, with efficacy rising to about 82 per cent after the second dose 12 weeks later.