UK Covid live: 60m vaccine booster shots secured for use later this year | Politics

Q: Some people say you are sticking to dates, rather than data, because you are refusing to ease the restrictions for funerals. Will you look at those again?

Hancock says this is an incredibly important topic. He says the data suggests the UK is where it expected to be. The dates set out in the roadmap were “not before” dates.

He says we are almost exactly where the modellers said we would be.

Q: Do you have data about how vaccines are working against variants?

Van-Tam says most of the data is from after Christmas, and generated against the Kent B117 variant. He says they are extremely confident the vaccines are working against this.

But there are other variants. He says their cases numbers have grown. He would not call them trivial. But he does not see them rushing away either.

He says you can either test them by waiting until they grow in circulation. But they don’t want to allow that.

Instead they can do neutralisation studies in the laboratory, testing vaccines against different variants.

If the antibodies work against the virus, that is good; it shows the vaccines will work.

But if they don’t, that does not necessarily mean the vaccines won’t work – because vaccines also stimulate T-cell immunity.

He says the current studies show the level of neutralisation fall. But he says that does not mean the vaccines won’t work in the real world.

He says the first thing to go would be protection against infection. He says he would expect protection against severe disease to be be more lasting.

  • Van-Tam says it is still unclear how effective vaccines will be against new variants.

Hancock says policy around international travel is around uncertainty. Policy is dominated by the need to protect the progress made so far.

Q: How close are we to herd immunity? What threshold is needed to reach that?

Van-Tam says there are “some twists and turns” ahead. He says he does not want us to run into any “wet patches” in the next few weeks.

There will be good pressures and bad pressures on R.

The easements will have a propensity to increase R.

But the vaccine rollout should put downward pressure on it.

There are competing pressures in play, he says.

He says the vaccine programme has reached 42-year-olds, but it needs to go further.

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