UK faces dangerous third wave unless vaccination target doubled, ministers have been warned
Written by on 29 December 2020
The UK must double its vaccination target to two million a week in order to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus, ministers have been warned.
The warning comes from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a paper shared with the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
It comes as England’s hospitals are treating more patients than they were during the peak of the first wave and as the UK recorded its highest daily increase in COVID cases, with 41,385,
The government hopes that the imminent approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will allow the expansion of the vaccination programme, which is currently based only on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Around 200,000 people are being vaccinated each week and it has been reported in The Daily Telegraph that volunteers will be delivering at least one million jabs by the middle of January.
But the paper by the LSHTM says this will not be enough to avoid a third wave of coronavirus that will be even more deadly then the first.
According to the Telegraph, the paper says: “The most stringent intervention scenario with Tier 4 England-wide and schools closed during January and two million individuals vaccinated per week is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU burden below the levels seen during the first wave.”
A new tougher Tier 5 level of restrictions, which would close schools and universities, has not been ruled out by the government, but it is more likely that Tier 4 will be expanded first.
The current tiers are due to be reviewed this week and it is expected that parts of the Midlands and the North will enter Tier 4.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of SAGE, said he also did not believe that the one million weekly vaccination target would be enough to stop the spread of the virus.
He told the Today programme: “If we do manage to hit the target of one million a week, frankly I don’t think that is enough.
“We are going to have to speed that up if we want to get the country covered.”
History is made with the new COVID-19 vaccine
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: “We think by late spring, with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream, we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country COVID vaccination. That perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead.”
A government spokesman said: “The UK was the first country in the world to start a vaccination programme using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and because of our swift and decisive action there has been a regular and steady supply of vaccine doses arriving into the UK since early December.
“Our brilliant NHS has now vaccinated over 600,000 people against COVID-19, and over the coming weeks and months the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.”
The government said in November that 40 million vaccine doses were expected by the end of 2021 – enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population – with most of those set to arrive in the first half of the year.
The UK has early access to 357 million vaccine doses through agreements with a number of developers but some of these have not finished trials and only one – the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – has so far been approved for use.