UK's 'wall of vaccination' against Covid is 'leaky', Professor Chris Whitty says


Britain’s ‘wall of vaccination’ against Covid is ‘leaky’ because jabs aren’t 100 per cent effective and millions have still yet to be fully inoculated, Professor Chris Whitty warned tonight.

England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the wall — designed to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed and thousands from dying in the event of a third wave — will get stronger when top-up doses are dished out en masse in April.

But when asked if the UK was really at risk of enduring a third wave when lockdown restrictions are eased over the coming months, Professor Whitty said it is ‘not complete’.

Addressing the country from Downing Street‘s new £2.6million White House-style press briefing room, he said: ‘It’s a kind of a leaky wall, and, therefore, there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect.’

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was ‘inevitable’ infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off. 

His comments came as England unlocked further and stepped straight into a three-day spring heatwave, with the nation allowed to enjoy drink with friends while basking in 66.2F (24C) heat. 

England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the wall — designed to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed and thousands from dying in the event of a third wave — will get stronger when top-up doses are dished out en masse in April

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was 'inevitable' infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off

Flanked by Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance, Professor Whitty also warned it was ‘inevitable’ infections would rise when restrictions are relaxed over the coming months. He claimed reopening schools in England has already caused Covid cases to flatten off

Britons head to beauty spots in their droves to enjoy evening drinks as lockdown is eased on 67F hottest day of the year 

Britons were seen enjoying a tipple in the sun today as the nation raised a glass to the easing of lockdown restrictions on the hottest day of the year so far.

England has stepped out of lockdown straight into a three-day spring heatwave, with temperatures hitting 66.2F (24C) this afternoon and a predicted 76F tomorrow and Wednesday – just shy of the record.

A top temperature of 67.3F was recorded at Heathrow Airport this afternoon – marking a high point for 2021. The all-time UK record temperature for March was 78.1F on March 29, 1968 in Mepal, Cambridgeshire.

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It came as Boris Johnson warned Britons ‘don’t risk the progress we’ve made’ as he said it was ‘vital’ to continue abiding by social distancing rules, as police vowed to continue cracking down on large gatherings.

As of today – six people, or two full households – are allowed to meet outside, including in back gardens, for the first time in four months, while the Government’s ‘stay at home’ rule has been replaced with ‘stay local’.

People have also been quick to take advantage of the reintroduction of outdoor sports, with golfers, tennis players and outdoor swimmers already out in force – while others took to Twitter to announce their plans to have drinks.

Weddings can also go ahead, and Ben and Gabriela Lloyd were the first couple to get married at St Albans registry office today.

However, Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, warned people against hugging, saying they would only be able to do so again when case numbers are ‘very, very low’.

Pointing to Sir Patrick’s slide that showed how vaccines drastically cut the risk of being hospitalised with Covid, Professor Whitty said it showed ‘we do have kind of a wall of vaccination that will get stronger with the second vaccines.   

‘But it is not a complete wall, it is a kind of leaky wall. Therefore, there will always be some people who either have chosen not to be vaccinated, or where the vaccine has had much less effect. 

‘If we get a small surge, there will be cases of people who have been vaccinated who will have severe disease, and there will be cases of people who are not vaccinated, a much higher proportion, who will get severe disease, and some of those will go on to die.’

Professor Whitty added: ‘If you get a very big wave, that would obviously lead to a significant impact. 

‘So that’s the reason why the Prime Minister and ministers have been absolutely determined that this is a slow and steady unlocking, looking at data between each step.’

Despite the gloomy warning that Britons could still die because vaccines aren’t a panacea, the Prime Minister said he could ‘categorically rule out’ another national lockdown. 

But he admitted that his promise came with ‘two very important provisos’, calling on Britons to keep obeying the guidance and making sure the current vaccines being deployed remain effective. 

More than 30.4million Britons have now had their first dose of a Covid vaccine, with 3.7million fully jabbed. 

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Sir Patrick’s slide showed how the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations among four different age groups would be drastically lower if everyone was vaccinated.

For example, at the current rate of infection No10’s top scientists predict there would be almost 30 people out of every 100,000 Brits aged between 55 and 64 hospitalised with Covid over the next four weeks. With everyone in that age group vaccinated, it would plunge to six.

He said the data showed that vaccines are ‘very effective at reducing hospitalisations in everyone who gets them’, urging everyone eligible for a jab to book an appointment. 

However, he cautioned that jabs currently being deployed in Britain are not 100 per cent protective and that the modelling was based on current rates of infections.

Sir Patrick said: ‘If the rates were much higher then obviously the amount of hospitalisations would be higher, which reinforces the point that the thing that we all must do is try to keep rates down and be sensible as we unlock and get back to more interaction.’ 

Sir Patrick Vallance's slide showed how the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations among four different age groups would be drastically lower if everyone was vaccinated

Sir Patrick Vallance’s slide showed how the rate of coronavirus hospitalisations among four different age groups would be drastically lower if everyone was vaccinated

Large crowd of young people have gathered in Hyde Park, Leeds, to bask in today's sunshine as lockdown measures were eased and the Rule of Six returned

Large crowd of young people have gathered in Hyde Park, Leeds, to bask in today’s sunshine as lockdown measures were eased and the Rule of Six returned

A group of friends enjoy drinks in beautiful spring weather in St James's Park, central London today as the rule of six was reintroduced

A group of friends enjoy drinks in beautiful spring weather in St James’s Park, central London today as the rule of six was reintroduced 

Boris Johnson unveils UK will make 60m doses of Novavax’s Covid vaccine in Durham 

Boris Johnson tonight revealed GlaxoSmithKline will support the manufacturing of up to 60million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine in the UK.

No10’s vaccines taskforce has signed a deal with British drugs giant GSK to ‘fill and finish’ supplies of the American jab at its factory in Durham starting from May.

Mr Johnson said the move will ‘further boost our vaccine rollout’, which is slow down next month due to a a shortfall of five million AstraZeneca jabs from India.

The ‘fill and finish’ is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.

Britain has secured 60million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm, enough to fully vaccinate 30m Brits.

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Earlier this month Novavax announced its jab was 89 per cent effective at blocking symptomatic illness and stopped 100 per cent of hospital admissions and deaths.

The Prime Minister told tonight’s Downing Street press conference: ‘I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout.

At the same press conference, Mr Johnson tonight revealed GlaxoSmithKline will support the manufacturing of up to 60million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine in the UK.

No10’s vaccines taskforce has signed a deal with British drugs giant GSK to ‘fill and finish’ supplies of the American jab at its factory in Durham starting from May.

Mr Johnson said the move will ‘further boost our vaccine rollout’, which is set to slow down next month due to a shortfall of five million AstraZeneca jabs from India.

The ‘fill and finish’ is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.

Britain has secured 60million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with the American firm, enough to fully vaccinate 30m Brits.

Earlier this month Novavax announced its vaccine was 89 per cent effective at blocking symptomatic cases and stopped 100 per cent of hospital admissions and deaths.

The Prime Minister said: ‘I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout.

‘The vaccines taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK and this agreement will continue to support our approach.

‘We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over-50s by April 15, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called.’

Novavax is due to submit its late stage trial data to Britain’s medical regulator in the coming weeks and approval is expected in May. 

So far three jabs have been approved by the MHRA — made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna — and a fourth developed by Johnson and Johnson is currently under review.

Britain already has enough doses on order from AstraZeneca and Pfizer alone to vaccinate the entire nation with two doses. 

But officials anticipate ‘booster’ shots will need to be given annually to the elderly and vulnerable because immunity wears off quicker in those groups.



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