he speed of Britain’s vaccine roll-out will double in the next two months, the Government minister in charge of the programme has vowed.
Dr Anthony Fauci, asked in a Science Museum webinar last night about whether the world could vaccinate its way out of the pandemic, said: “I believe that we can.” He added: “I believe that if we get a good global response with vaccinations we will be able to end this pandemic as we know it.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines deployment minister, said the UK roll-out had been “exemplary”, with 18.2 million first doses given by Tuesday night.
He said the infrastructure was in place to deliver “even greater doses”, with “double the rate of vaccination” in the next 10 to 11 weeks, compared with progress between December 8 and February 15. However it would be a “marathon” to vaccinate all adult Britons, with the programme only a third of the way towards its target.
Mr Zahawi said: “Now we are into the next sprint to offer the vaccine to all nine [priority] categories, which is 32 million people by the middle of April, and then ultimately to all the adult population by the end of July. I’m confident both in the vaccine supply and that we will meet our targets.”
Dr Fauci, reappointed by President Biden, told the webinar that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in use in the US, and the Oxford jab also being used in the UK, were offering good protection against the dominant “Kent” variant of Covid. But he said there was a “five-fold diminution in the efficacy” of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against the South African variant, which was yesterday announced in the Oval area of Lambeth, prompting “surge” testing.
He said extensive genomic surveillance of new strains was the way to suppress mutations. “If you get a good handle on that and you are able to modify your vaccines where appropriate, I believe that if we get a good global response with vaccinations we will be able to end this pandemic as we know it,” he said.
Dr Fauci also revealed his concerns about anti-vaccine propaganda, saying it could hinder attempts to immunise entire populations. “If we have a substantial proportion that does not want to get vaccinated, that would be a hindrance to reaching that goal of herd immunity,” he said.