Boris Johnson defends AstraZeneca jab and says no doubt it’s 'way out' of pandemic despite South African variant fears
BORIS Johnson today defended the AstraZeneca jab and others as "no doubt the way out" of the pandemic – despite fears it's not as effective on the South African variant.
The PM insisted that the jabs were a "massive benefit to our country and the population" and still worked to stop serious disease and death.
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However, a recent study appeared to show that it wasn't able to stop mild to moderate illness of the variant – prompting South Africa to pause its rollout of the jabs while more research is done.
Importantly, none of the people involved in the research were hospitalised or died – and some trial participants only showed mild or moderate Covid-19 symptoms.
Britain has dished out more than 12million jabs so far – and is expected to hit its target of reaching nearly 15million by Valentines' Day.
The PM did not rule out that the South African variant could lead to a delay in easing restrictions if it reduces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine's effect on transmissibility.
Pressed on whether there could be a delay to easing restrictions if the jab is less effective at reducing transmission of the South African variant, he said: "We think that all the vaccines that we're using, both the vaccines that we're currently using, are effective in stopping serious disease and death."
He also noted that the Oxford jab had shown great signs of being able to stop transmission.
The PM said: "We also think in particular in the case of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that there's good evidence that it is stopping transmission, as well, I think 67% reduction in transmission.
"They remain a massive benefit to our country and the population.
"I've no doubt that vaccines generally are going to offer a way out. And with every day that goes by, you can see that medicine is slowly getting the upper hand over the disease."
Ministers have sought to ally fears about the South African vaccine after the small-scale studies, were just a handful were infected.
Yesterday Oxford University's Sarah Gilbert said that they were looking at tweaking their vaccine specifically to focus on the new variant.
Nadhim Zahawi suggested Brits may need a top up dose of the drug in future to make sure that it was effective for all the new mutant strains.
NHS England are said to be looking into an annual vaccine programme like the flu, to make sure that people remain safe.
On Friday, Oxford said their vaccine has similar efficacy against the British coronavirus variant as it does to the previously circulating variants.
More data on the efficacy of vaccines will be available as more people receive their jab.
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