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expert reaction to latest Downing Street Press Conference on the B.1.617.2 variant (‘Indian’ variant)

At the coronavirus press conference this afternoon Boris Johnson made a statement on the SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in India, B.1.617.2.


Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:

“The main threat to vaccine success and return to normality has been the emergence and spread of variants that are able to escape the protection offered by vaccines. Evidence so far suggests that the vaccines should still be effective against the variant of concern first identified in India, but this is far from clear.

“Whilst most vulnerable people have had both doses of vaccine, and therefore will have the highest levels of immunity, there is still a large proportion of the population who have only had a single dose or no dose at all, and it is likely that many of these could become infected and potentially transmit the virus. Whilst the vaccines continue to protect the most vulnerable then this should not be a problem, but there is a potential risk of the virus acquiring more mutations, especially if it continues to spread in a partially immune population. That’s why it makes sense to reduce the interval between vaccine doses and ramp up vaccine coverage in potential hotspots.

“Of course, if heightened vaccine programmes can’t control its spread, and hospitalisations start to increase and threaten the NHS, then restrictions are all you have left. We aren’t there yet by any means, but we must keep a very close eye on things to ensure things don’t get out of hand again.

“Keeping the lid on the spread of this variant isn’t going to be easy, but hopefully early indicators of continued vaccine effectiveness against this variant, will minimise its impact.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Jonathan Ball: “No COI.”

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