Vaccinated people could still spread Covid-19, Van Tam warns

23 January 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 24 January 2021, 06:49

Jonathan Van Tam has said that although the vaccination process is encouraging, everyone needs to follow the rules
Jonathan Van Tam has said that although the vaccination process is encouraging, everyone needs to follow the rules. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam has urged people in England to continue to follow lockdown restrictions as it is not yet clear what effect the vaccine might have on transmission of Covid-19.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said that if those who have been vaccinated begin easing off because they are protected, they are potentially putting at risk those further down the priority list who still need inoculation.

The UK is in the midst of an ambitious vaccine programme, and so fair more than 5.8 Brits have so far had at least one jab against the deadly virus.

In total 6,329,968 doses have been delivered into the arms of the most vulnerable and our frontline health workers - with 478,248 doses being given on Friday alone.

But although confidence in the vaccine is high and people are attending appointments for it in their droves, there are fears it could lead to those who have been vaccinated to stop following the rules.

Read more: Jonathan Van Tam's mother receives Covid-19 vaccination

“Through the vaccination programme, millions of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 are being given significant protection from this virus - a fantastic achievement," Professor Van Tam said.

“However, regardless of whether someone has had their vaccination or not, it is vital that everyone follows the national restrictions and public health advice, as protection takes up to 3 weeks to kick in and we don’t yet know the impact of vaccines on transmission.

“The vaccine is rightly something to celebrate - let’s stay patient, stay at home and support the NHS as it continues to roll out the vaccine.”

His warning comes as the Prime Minister warned a new Covid-19 variant first seen in London and the South West could be deadlier than the original virus.

Scientists have warned there can be no early easing of lockdown rules because of the new variant.

Boris Johnson has warned the strain first identified in south-east England may be associated with "a higher degree of mortality".

Scientists on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), subcommittee concluded there was a "realistic possibility" that the variant resulted in an increased risk of death, leading to the Prime Minister's announcement at yesterday's press conference.

However some scientists have called for more data, suggesting that No10 could have waited up to another two weeks before making the announcement, with even Sir Patrick Vallance saying the numbers are "very uncertain".

Ministers are toughening their lockdown messaging, including a series of hard-hitting new adverts highlighting the pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister said the Government could have to bring in further restrictions on travel following a warning that other new variants found in South Africa and Brazil may be more resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.

Leading doctors have also called for the gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to be cut in half from 12 weeks to six.

Officials in the UK have extended the interval to 12 weeks to speed up the wider rollout of the jab, but the British Medical Association (BMA) says the period should be cut to six weeks - saying there is no global precedent for this decision and the UK is "isolated" in its adoption of the strategy.