Kate Andrews Kate Andrews

What the latest vaccine news means for lifting lockdown

(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

As more good news about vaccine efficacy rolls in, questions are already starting to be asked about what it means for the Prime Minister’s lockdown timetable. Boris Johnson has committed to publishing his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown — but news from the last few days may be influencing what that roadmap looks like, especially the PM’s top priorities of getting children back to school and lifting major social distancing restrictions.

Today’s antibody survey from the Office for National Statistics shows 15.3 per cent prevalence in England, up from 10.7 per cent last month. This time around, the increase is not just due to infections: vaccines are playing their part too. The highest antibody positivity is seen in the over-eighties, who have been prioritised for vaccination. While the latest survey will only reflect the first few weeks of the vaccine rollout (it takes several weeks to build up antibodies), it suggests the next survey may show some extraordinary figures, as millions of jabs start to show their results.

How low do rates of hospitalisations and deaths have to fall before the government will meaningfully reopen society?

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Meanwhile, yesterday’s publication of Oxford University’s pre-print paper on the efficacy of the vaccine provided a significant optimism boost: one jab is estimated to have 76 per cent efficacy for preventing symptomatic infection (6 percentage points higher than the original estimate published for two doses last year). Ross Clark has the details of the trial on Coffee House, which recorded zero hospitalisations for those who received the vaccine. Crucially, the study also found the jab cut transmission of the virus by 67 per cent.

That figure is perhaps even more important than the upward revision of efficacy: it means that the vaccine doesn’t simply protect the person receiving it from severe Covid-19 symptoms, but it also stops two-thirds of people from passing the virus on.

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