UK dishes out record 400,000 second doses of Covid vaccines as figures show England has now reached 87% of all over-50s
- 404,922 people given second shot on Wednesday, up from 270,000 day prior
- NHS also administered 241,000 first doses, taking total jabs deployed to 35.6m
- Marks the second day in a row more follow-up shots were put into arms than first
Britain administered a record 400,000 second coronavirus vaccine doses on Wednesday, latest official figures show.
The NHS also dished out more than 241,000 first shots, taking total jabs deployed to 35.6million. The number of fully vaccinated adults stands at 4.5m.
The Government’s Covid dashboard shows 404,922 people received their second injection on Wednesday, up from around 270,000 the day before.
It marks the second day in a row more follow-up shots were put into arms than first doses after it happened for the first time on Tuesday.
Ministers have said April will be the ‘second dose month’ because millions of people who were jabbed in January are due their second injection after 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, NHS England figures published today showed 87 per cent of all over-50s have been given at least one dose of the vaccine.
Uptake in elderly groups had been above 90 per cent but there were fears it could it would fall much lower as the rollout moved down through the age groups.
Britain administered a record 400,000 second coronavirus vaccine doses on Wednesday, latest official figures shows
The figures up to March 28 show that 2.8million Brits over 50 are still yet to take up the offer. Ministers are planning to target the age group while vaccine supplies are limited this month.
It came as Chris Whitty claimed Britain will be vulnerable to coronavirus for another two years but the illness should become as manageable as flu in the future.
Pfizer’s Covid vaccine still works against the South African and Brazilian variants of the virus, studies suggested today.
The jab prevented 100 per cent of infections in a study run by Pfizer in South Africa and UK lab tests on the P1 Brazilian strain of the virus found it worked against that.
Scientists had been worried that new variants of the virus would make vaccines less effective because they change its shape and make it harder for the immune system to recognise.
Recent lab studies showed that levels of useful virus-fighting antibodies drop when vaccinated people are exposed to new variants, but scientists now say this doesn’t seem to affect real-world immunity.
One researcher said their study of elderly people saw that antibody levels were ‘off the scale’ after two doses and that everyone developed signs of protection.
And Pfizer reported that results from its clinical trials showed ‘high vaccine efficacy against the variant prevalent in South Africa’.
The findings are good news for long-term trust in the jab and suggest that boosters may not be as vital as the first two doses. It also raises the prospect that international travel won’t be too dangerous because the threat of variants is smaller.
England’s chief medical officer said vaccine manufacturers were still struggling to get basic supplies distributed around the world and were not yet fully equipped to deal with new variants.
He warned it was ‘absolutely certain’ a Covid strain will emerge that will be able to escape the current crop of jabs, which could undermine the UK’s immunisation programme if it is allowed to spread unchallenged.
Professor Whitty said Britain will need to remain ‘cautious for the next year or two’, when more vaccines have been approved and companies have the infrastructure to tweak their jabs to target new variants at speed.
He told a Royal Society of Medicine conference today: ‘Technology will find its way through this in the long run. But there is a period of risk between now and then.’
While he said he cannot see a system of local lockdowns returning, the emergence of a variant which was able to have ‘unconstrained growth’ could mean the ‘alarm cord’ must be pulled and more drastic measures reinstated.
Asked about whether shutting Britain’s borders was enough to keep out troubling variants, Professor Whitty said it is not a ‘realistic starting point’ to think any policy could completely shut them out. But he hinted that restricting travel to virus hotspots could be needed for months.
‘We have to accept that the idea that you can stop any variants coming into the UK at all is not a realistic starting point — but what you can do is you can slow it down,’ he added.
‘Anybody who believes that they can actually just put up some border policy or some overall policy that stops the possibility [of variants] completely is misunderstanding the problem completely.’
He hinted this could result in travel curbs continuing to be imposed for certain countries, adding: ‘You don’t worry about any country that’s got less [virus and variants] than you have, but you do worry about any country that’s got more than you have.’
Looking ahead, Professor Whitty said Covid should end up being as manageable as influenza in the future, with the disease remaining squashed most of the year and only rearing its head in winter.
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