Despite the success of the vaccine rollout, the roadmap through lifting lockdown restrictions cannot be accelerated safely, the UK’s vaccines minister has warned this morning.
Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that while one in four adults had two doses, “we have to be careful”.
The successful vaccine rollout does not ensure full protection, Zahawi warned, adding that “if the vaccines have 85 per cent efficacy and we vaccinate fully 85 per cent of the adult population, that is still only 72 per cent protection – that is quite a sizeable percentage for the virus to go after and infect, which is why we have to be careful.”
“The good news is we’re not seeing any evidence that would lead us to believe we can’t meet the next step in May and, ultimately, June 21.”
It will pay to be cautious once restrictions can be fully lifted, the vaccines minister told Sky News.
“It is much better to be careful and follow the data and collect the data properly, analyse and then make a decision rather than – we all want obviously to get our freedoms back as quickly as possible but let us do this properly and let’s do it safely.”
On whether restrictions could be lifted as per the road map, Zahawi said: “The data is looking good and positive but nevertheless we really have to be careful because what we don’t want is mutations, for example, to blindside us and then have another spike.”
The minister later told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “And then, of course, the other side of that is how do you plan in terms of deployment, how does it dovetail with the flu vaccination programme in the autumn and then the annual vaccination programme next year?”
Zahawi’s comments come as the government secured 60m doses of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, intended for the UK’s autumn booster programme.
Later this year, the minister said he hopes to move from “pandemic to endemic” via the booster programme, treating coronavirus variants like the flu via an annual jab.