4 months ago
Coronavirus: Vaccine chief 'optimistic' about over-50s May target
Coronavirus: Vaccine chief 'optimistic' about over-50s May targetPublished3 minutes agoSharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingRelated Topics
The UK can meet the target of vaccinating all over-50s by May, the chairman of the vaccines taskforce has said, adding he is "very optimistic".
Dr Clive Dix told the BBC the taskforce has met every target set.
The UK would be "ahead of the game" in terms of anticipating variants of coronavirus and was making "libraries of future vaccines", he said.
He added that the UK would not hoard supplies but would distribute them globally, once the UK target is met.
Downing Street has said everyone in the UK aged 50 and over should have been offered a coronavirus vaccine by May.
Previously, ministers had said it was their "ambition" to vaccinate the first nine priority groups by the spring.
As of Thursday, the UK had given a first jab to nearly 11 million people and is aiming to reach 15 million vaccinations by 15 February.
Dr Dix told the BBC's Today programme: "We will work day and night to ensure we meet whatever the target that's feasible can be met.
"So I'm very optimistic that we will meet the May target."
Questions have been raised around the efficacy of vaccines against variants of the virus - including the one first identified in Kent.
On Friday, Oxford-AstraZeneca said its vaccine gave people good protection against the UK variant.
Variants in South Africa and Brazil have also been identified.
Dr Dix said the UK was "at the forefront of surveying" the variants and able to "second-guess" mutations that have not yet occurred.
They were then able to make vaccines for those variants, he told the programme.
"We'll make libraries of future vaccines, just small amounts, enough to then, if it does occur, do a quick clinical study to see that it works and then start manufacturing it," he said.
Asked whether there could be a vaccine-busting variant at some stage, Dr Dix said: "There's a possibility, but we'll be ahead of the game, we're not going to be waiting for it to happen.
"We now have the capabilities in the UK to be responsive and that capability won't just be for the use of the UK of course.
"Once we've done it, it will actually help the whole world because it will be part of that whole surveillance and reaction."
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that mutations of the virus could lead to a "cycle" of lockdowns in the future if measures were not put in place, such as effective contact tracing.
"The worry that we have to really plan for is the possibility that we will have a new mutation that is actually immune to the vaccines that we're giving out at the moment," Mr Hunt said.
"So, in order to make sure that we don't get caught out by that again, we need to get transmission levels down to the kind of levels where we can do incredibly thorough contact tracing, like they do in Korea and Taiwan."
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