Increasing confidence vaccines work against B1.617.2 variant, says UK PM

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London, May 19 (PTI) There is increasing confidence that the vaccines currently being administered in the UK to protect against COVID-19 are effective against all variants of the deadly virus, including the B1.617.2 variant first identified in India, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

During his weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons, Johnson said fresh data on the B1.617.2 variant had been reviewed earlier on Wednesday and welcomed the record numbers of people from regions feared as hotspots for the highly transmissible strain for coming forward for their jabs.

'We've looked at the data again this morning and I can tell the House we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant,' Johnson told the members of Parliament.

“I want particularly in this context to thank the people of Bolton and Blackburn and many other places who have been coming forward in record numbers to get vaccinated; to get their first jabs and their second jabs. The numbers have doubled in Bolton alone and the people of this country can be proud of their participation,” he said.

It comes a day after the UK Prime Minister said that experts continue to track the epidemiology of the B1.617.2 variant and there is nothing conclusive to say that the UK would “need to deviate from the roadmap” for its planned end to lockdown restrictions set for June 21.

The spread of the variant first identified in India, with more than 2,300 confirmed cases across the UK, has raised fears that the roadmap out of the lockdown may have to be delayed.

Government scientific advisers have said there is a 'realistic possibility' that the variant could be around 50 per cent more transmissible than the one that emerged in Kent late last year and triggered the UK’s second wave of the pandemic.

Professor Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London expert whose work led to the first lockdown in the UK in March 2020, told the BBC on Wednesday that recent data on the B1.617.2 variant was looking more promising.

“There’s a glimmer of hope from the recent data that whilst this variant does still appear to have a significant growth advantage, the magnitude of that advantage seems to have dropped a little bit with the most recent data,” said Prof. Ferguson.

“The curves are flattening a little. But it will take more time for us to be definitive about that. It’s much easier to deal with 20 to 30 per cent than it would be 50 per cent or more,” he said.

Surge testing has been deployed in areas across the country to try and halt the rapid spread of the B1.617.2 variant, while a raft of measures have been taken to increase vaccine take up in feared hotspot areas for the mutation. PTI AK RS AKJ RS

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