A leading Sage scientist who advises the government has warned on Monday that if the new South African variant continues to spread, then there could be tougher lockdown restrictions.
This comes after a warning that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has “minimal effect” on the new variant, and people could need a third vaccine by the autumn to stop the South African strain.
Professor Mike Tildesley of Sage warned that even with “high levels of vaccination” many people could still become infected.
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.”
However, vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine today following a new study in South Africa which found it is not effective at preventing a mild case of Covid.
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.”
The Health Minister Edward Argar said that Oxford researchers remain confident the vaccine will prevent severe disease for those who catch the new variant.
Argar told Sky News, that booster jabs are already being developed to tackle new variants, and said, “What we would all expect is every year we have our flu jabs, it would not be unreasonable to suggest something similar here.”
Argar added that the virus “will always try to outwit us, “and “We’ve just got to make sure we get ahead of the game and we outwit it.”