Spread of COVID-19 variant forces UK to reduce interval of second vaccine doses to older Britons – fr

Spread of COVID-19 variant forces UK to reduce interval of second vaccine doses to older Britons – fr

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson provides an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at a press conference on May 14, 2021.

MATT DUNHAM / AFP / Getty Images

The UK government has been forced to adjust the rollout of its vaccination program as the country faces an increase in the number of COVID-19 variants first detected in India, which has reduced control efforts by the pandemic.

The number of cases of a mutation known as B.1.617.2 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks to 1,313, according to figures from Public Health England. Most infections have been clustered around Manchester, Glasgow and London, but health experts believe the variant has likely spread much further. Cases involving a similar version of the variant, known as B.1.617, also jumped to 368, up 107 since May 5. So far, four people have died from the variants.

“We think this variant is more transmissible… but we don’t know by how much,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a televised press conference on Friday. “If the variant is much more transferable, we will probably be faced with difficult choices.”

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Mr Johnson said the government would reduce the interval between the first and second dose of vaccines to eight 12 weeks for people aged 50 and over, to ensure that vulnerable populations are better protected against the variant. Health officials are also planning to send more doses of the vaccine to areas of the country that have been hardest hit by the mutations to speed up the pace of vaccination. So far, just over two-thirds of UK adults have been injected with a COVID-19 vaccine; 19.3 million people, or more than 30%, had two.

David Greenhalgh, the head of Bolton Council, a suburb of Greater Manchester, said the vast majority of cases of the variant in his community have involved teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s, age groups that don’t have not yet been vaccinated. He called for a wave of vaccinations for young people in Bolton. “If we can get vaccinated [people aged] 16 more, who are made redundant by Pfizer, then it will undergo a total transformation of the transmission as it advances, ”Greenhalgh told the BBC on Friday.

But diverting doses from the national program could leave other regions vulnerable and disrupt the entire vaccination campaign, health officials argued. It also takes a few weeks for the vaccines to take effect, which would offer little benefit for the current outbreak. “We have a limited supply of vaccines at all times,” Chris Whitty, chief government medical officer, said at the press conference. “So if you vaccinate one person, by definition you are not vaccinating another. … This would lead to an overall net disadvantage. Instead, Dr Whitty said accelerating second doses across the country was a better option.

Mr Johnson is now under pressure to delay government plans to open up much of the economy on Monday and remove almost all lockdown restrictions next month. From Monday pubs and restaurants across England will be able to offer room service and many other venues will also be allowed to reopen, including cinemas, museums and sports stadiums, which will have a limited number of spectators. Domestic travel restrictions will also be relaxed, giving people more freedom to move around the country and stay overnight.

Similar steps were due to be taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but on Friday Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said current lockdowns would remain in place in Glasgow and the Moray region, where the number of variant cases has increased.

Mr Johnson said the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 continued to drop, even in Bolton and other hot spots. He also said there was no evidence that current vaccines would be less effective against the variants.

“I don’t think we need, based on the current evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will continue with our plan to move to the third leg in England from Monday,” he said. “But I have to say with you that this new variant could seriously disrupt our progress and make it more difficult to move to the fourth stage in June. He also urged people to think twice before heading to Bolton and other parts of the country where variants were prevalent.

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The government’s science advisory group for emergencies said on Friday the variant could be up to 50% more transmissible than the B.1.1.7 mutation, which has dominated Britain for months. “We expect over time, this variant [B.1.617.2] to overtake and dominate in the UK the way B.1.1.7 has taken over and other variants have taken over before that, ”said Dr Whitty. He added that if the variant turned out to be much more heritable, “we could have a really significant push. “

Overall, the number of daily COVID-19 infections across Britain has remained low for weeks at around 2,500. Deaths have fallen even more sharply since January with hospitalizations, which are at their lowest since last summer. “The vaccine deployment program remains a success,” said Dr Whitty. “Vaccines reduce hospitalizations and deaths – there is very clear evidence that they are and nothing has changed about that.”

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