Boris Johnson told to speed up jab rollout to stop more Covid strains wreaking havoc

Vaccine: Expert fires warning over new variants

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Professor John Edmunds appeared on ITV’s Peston to discuss the threat of new coronavirus mutations. Host Robert Peston quizzed the health expert on the time delay between identifying a new strain and producing a vaccine booster to immunise people from the spread. Professor Edmunds warned against an easing of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and insisted that immunising people as fast as possible was vital to prevent a mutant strain of the virus becoming established.

Asked by Peston how much damage a new strain of coronavirus can inflict in over four months, Professor Edmunds replied: “It depends how fast it spreads.

“It depends what its selective advantage is, my hunch is with these E484 variants, like the South African stain, Manaus stain from Brazil and potentially this Bristol strain that their selective advantage is that they can affect people who have some level of immunities from a vaccine or not.

“So to some extent it depends on how fast you vaccinate.”

He added: “You don’t want these new variants to emerge.”

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“You want to reduce the chances of them emerging,” continued Professor Edmunds.

“If you’ve got high prevalence than you’ve got a much greater chance of new variants emerging.

“So what we have to do now is bring the number of cases right down to stop these new variants emerging.

“We have to keep our border pretty tight to stop them coming in from outside.

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“And we have got to vaccinate as fast as we possibly can.

“So those are the three things that we have got to do.”

He warned Mr Peston that this would mean no “easing up” of current coronavirus lockdown measures.

The health expert said: “Because I think if we ease up we run the risk of having quite a high fraction of the population who are perhaps partially immune because they haven’t received a full course of vaccine.”

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Professor Edmunds added this would lead to the “high likelihood” of a mutant variant becoming “established.”

More than 13 million people across the UK have received a jab so far, one in every four adults.

By the end of the week the 15 million most vulnerable will have received a jab and with scientists expecting an 88 percent drop in coronavirus deaths once they have built up immunity by the end of February.

The Prime Minister confirmed he would be setting out his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22 as the country begins the “long and hard road back to normality”.

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