Katy Balls

The UK’s Covid strategy gets a vaccine boost

The UK's Covid strategy gets a vaccine boost
Matt Hancock (photo: Getty)
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Matt Hancock had good news for today's press conference: the Health Secretary said the effectiveness of vaccines was beginning to show in the data. While hospitalisations are falling across the board, they are falling the fastest among the priority groups that have received the vaccine. Deputy Chief Medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said that both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine are reducing hospitalisations by 80 per cent in the over-70s.

Hancock said that the most recent data showed that protection from the Oxford vaccine after 35 days is even greater than Pfizer – though both vaccines produce an 80 per cent reduction in hospitalisations. He said the vaccine results could 'help to explain why the number of Covid admissions to intensive care units among people over 80 in the UK have dropped to single figures in the last couple of weeks'.

While the tone of the press conference was positive (with Hancock also attempting to offer reassurance over concerns about the Brazilian variant in the UK), the message was still one of caution. Van-Tam was keen to stress that there was still a long road ahead to get more people vaccinated. He said: 'If we are patient and give this vaccine time to have full effect it is hopefully going to take us into a very different world in the next few months'.

Today's data is encouraging and appears to vindicate the government's vaccine decisions – from spacing out the first and second doses to allow more people to receive their first shot to the green-lighting of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups. It's also a boost to the government's plan to end lockdown.

This is in contrast to countries such as Germany who only advised the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s use for the under-65s (something they are expected to reverse). It also raises questions over the judgment of EU leaders such as Emmanuel Macron. The French President previously claimed the vaccine was 'quasi-ineffective' in older people. Since then, there have been reports of vials of the vaccine going unused across the EU due to a lack of demand from sceptical members of the public. This messaging looks increasingly foolish and misjudged.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

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