Indian variant more transmissible but vaccines appear effective, Matt Hancock says

17 May 2021, 17:28

By Will Taylor

The Indian coronavirus variant is more transmissible but vaccines appear to still be effective against it, Matt Hancock has told MPs.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Health Secretary said while the ability for the variant to spread faster "poses a real risk", early data on how vaccines can deal with it is "reassuring".

Mr Hancock made reference to another coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, which could also spread faster, and said: "The early evidence suggests that B1617.2 is more transmissible than the previously dominant B1117 variant. We do not yet know to what extent it is more transmissible.

"While we also don't have the complete picture on the impact of the vaccine, the early laboratory data from Oxford University corroborates the evidence from Bolton Hospital and the initial observational data from India that vaccines are effective against this variant."

Mr Hancock also told the Commons there have been 2,323 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the UK, with 86 local authorities having five or more confirmed cases.

Read more: Social distancing measure review could be pushed back over Indian variant concerns

Read more: Sadiq Khan calls for young Londoners to be vaccinated to protect against Indian variant

It has become the dominant strain in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where 483 cases have been detected.

Surge testing has been used to try and contain the variant, with six new testing units and more than 50 new vaccinators set up across two new centres distributing jabs in Bolton and Blackburn, Mr Hancock said.

The rate of vaccination has quadrupled in Bolton, he added.

Read more: Push to deliver 'a million jabs a day' to drive down India Covid-19 variant

The Health Secretary also stressed the importance of getting jabbed.

"To anyone who feels hesitant, not just in Bolton or Blackburn, but to anyone who feels hesitant about getting the vaccine right across the country, just look at what is happening in Bolton Hospital where the majority of people in hospital with coronavirus were eligible for the jab but have chosen not yet to have the jab and have ended up in hospital - some of them in intensive care," he said.

"Vaccines save lives, they protect you, they protect your loved ones and they will help us all get out of this pandemic."