JCVI deputy: Vaccines will 'definitely prevent severe disease' as variants emerge

16 May 2021, 11:18 | Updated: 17 May 2021, 06:15

By Joe Cook

The current Covid-19 vaccines will "definitely prevent severe disease" even as new variants emerge, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has told LBC.

Professor Anthony Harnden told Swarbrick on Sunday that the current vaccines "are all very good" at preventing hospitalisations and deaths, adding: "There is no reason to suspect that these vaccines that we are using won't be equally effective in terms of severe disease, against the variant that originated in India."

SAGE scientists have concluded with "confidence" that the Indian variant more transmissible than the Kent variant that is currently dominant in the UK, however Prof Harnden told LBC the NHS will still be protected, "provided you get people vaccinated".

"That is the key and there are still lots of people in risk groups which haven't been vaccinated yet and that is why we are really pushing ahead," the Oxford vaccine expert explained.

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On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the rollout of second doses for over 50s and the clinically vulnerable will accelerate in England, with the period between jabs reduced from 12 weeks to eight.

Prof Handen said this decision had been taken by the JCVI as "we know that a second dose will give you that extra bit of protection".

"Although it may not give such good long term protection, it certainly will help in this short term where we have got a highly transmissible virus that is likely to become the dominant virus in the UK."

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But amidst reports that ministers expert daily doses to increase from 500,000 to 800,000 a day within a fortnight, the vaccine expert said "it's not all bad news".

"This 6.1.7 variant from India is not going to be the only variant that we see. This is going to be a recurring theme and that is why we need to get vaccinated, because we will definitely, definitely prevent severe disease."

He continued: "Actually exposure to a virus once you have been vaccinated, if you get mild disease, will give you natural boosting and even better immunity.

"So it's not all bad news, we are going to get out of this and we are not going to be in these restricted times for ever, but we just need to get our population vaccinated as quickly as possible."