The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has refused to rule out extending the current lockdown on Monday.
This comes as a member of the government scientific advisory group Sage warned that if the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, then tougher “restrictions might be needed for longer.”
Johnson was asked on Monday if there could be a delay into easing restrictions if the Oxford vaccine is less effective.
He said that all the vaccines will “offer a way out” which be of a “massive benefit to out country,” but did not dismiss an extension to the current lockdown.
Johnson said during a visit to Derby, “We’re very confident in all the vaccines that we’re using. And I think it’s important for people to bear in mind that all of them, we think, are effective in delivering a high degree of protection against serious illness and death, which is the most important thing.”
He warned that it is “very possible” the South African variant has already spread across the UK as 147 cases have already been identified, whilst experts are warning that this is likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Professor Tildesley told BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, “It means that even with high levels of vaccination there will be a lot of people that could potentially get infected and could potentially pass it on and it may mean that more restrictions might be needed for longer if we can’t get on top of this.”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the vaccines Minister, Zahawi said, “While it is right and necessary to prepare for the deployment of an updated vaccine, we can take confidence from the current roll out and the protection it will provide all of us against this terrible disease.
“We need to be aware that even where a vaccine has reduced efficacy in preventing infection there may still be good efficacy against severe disease, hospitalisation, and death. This is vitally important for protecting the healthcare system.”
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca spokesperson added, “We do believe our vaccine could protect against severe disease, as neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to that of other Covid-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to eight to 12 weeks.”