‘Strong evidence’ Covid vaccines reduce transmission expected soon, JCVI member tells LBC

28 February 2021, 13:37 | Updated: 28 February 2021, 13:52

By Joe Cook

Experts expect to receive “very strong evidence” that the Covid vaccines reduce transmission rates of the virus in the coming weeks, a member of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation has told LBC.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Professor Robert Read told Swarbrick on Sunday: “In order to transmit you have got to become infected, and there is growing data now showing that there is an impact on infection, in other words being protected from actually picking up the virus in the first place.

The evidence is “not yet as strong as the evidence” on curbing hospitalisations and deaths, however Prof Read said in “a few more weeks... we are going to have very strong evidence that transmission is impacted by the vaccine”.

The professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton said he recognised reports in the papers that just one shot of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine reduces the chance of hospitalisation by 90%.

“It is early days”, he told Tom Swarbrick, but added: “A series of converging datasets essentially are all showing roughly the same thing.”

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Despite this positive news on the effectiveness of the vaccines, Prof Read suggested this does not mean the lockdown easing can be brought forward.

“We need to get the abundance of the virus in the community to as near zero as we possibly can, whilst we are completing our vaccine program,” he said.

“20 million doses is a fantastic achievement, but we need to give people a second dose for sustained protection going into the winter.

“If we don’t get our viral prevalence down to near zero, we will go into the autumn period with people who are still relatively unprotected.”

The comments come as Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people "not to blow it now", as the vaccine rollout continues.

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The JCVI member also hinted that some people may be given three Covid jabs this year, including vaccines that are currently in development to combat new variants.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with variants, but we believe if we have two doses protecting the population by autumn then the protection will be sustained,” Prof Read told Tom.

“Then you could envisage boosting the vulnerable population around October or November with a modified vaccine and then get sustained protection of the UK population through the next winter.”

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Scientists believe the current vaccines will protect against hospitalisation and death from the new variants, but may be slightly less effective.

Earlier this month, the team behind the Oxford University-AstraZeneca jab said vaccines against new variants could be ready by October.

The UK government has also signed a deal with German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac for 50 million doses of vaccines that will target new variants.

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