UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that one in three adults has now received a COVID vaccine jab, but added there is not yet confidence that the vaccine is ‘as effective’ against the South African variant.
During an interview on BBC One on Sunday, Matt Hancock said the vaccination rate in the UK was an achievement that was “great news,” Metro UK reported. By last week, more than 15 million people in the UK had received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
Hancock confirmed that the government’s new target for the vaccine rollout will be to vaccinate all adults over age 50, as well as those with underlying health conditions, by April 15. The previous target had been to reach all those aged 50 and over by May.
However, the order of priority for those under 50 is still yet to be outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). For the next target, the government’s aim is to offer all adults in the UK the vaccine by July 31.
“We are confident that the vaccine works effectively against both the old strain that has been here for some time and the so-called Kent variant, which is now the main source of infection in this country,” Hancock said during the interview with BBC One. He went on to say that there was not yet confidence that the vaccine is “as effective” against the South African COVID-19 variant or the mutation first seen in Brazil.
Hancock stated that, according to the latest data, at least a dozen new cases of the South African variant have been found in the UK, which brings the total cases of the variant in the nation to around 300 cases.
“But we do think that the measures that we have taken – both the enhanced contact tracing and the measures at the border – are reducing those new variants here,” Hancock added.
A quicker-than-expected rollout will likely increase current pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to relax lockdown measures, Metro UK reported.
On Monday, the Prime Minister is expected to unveil a four-step plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions, including outlining rough dates for businesses to be allowed to reopen, team sports to resume and families permitted to reunite.