Studies about waning vaccine effectiveness could be a warning for the government

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Clinical experts have warned that the effectiveness of a second coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine dose against the Delta variant will likely wane after three months. But the Johnson government appears to be ignoring these warnings. And according to one leading clinician, the UK government may simply be making matters worse.

Effectiveness waning

Previously, The Canary reported on a research letter sharing studies by the Francis Crick Institute and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The studies examined the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the Delta variant. Other vaccines available in the UK were not included in the studies.

The authors of the letter found that in people who had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, “neutralising antibodies were more than five times lower” against the Delta variant as compared to the original strain.

The studies also claimed that:

levels of these antibodies are lower with increasing age and that levels decline over time, providing additional evidence in support of plans to deliver a vaccination boost to vulnerable people in the Autumn.

Stark warning

Professor Christina Pagel is an Independent Sage member and director of University College London’s Clinical Operational Research Unit. In an article for the Guardian, she put it more starkly – that the studies show:

that protection from two doses of the Pfizer vaccine may wane significantly against the Delta variant after a few months and in older people. Our most vulnerable populations are just now reaching the three-month post-second dose milestone.

Read on...

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As a booster jab against the Delta variant is unlikely to be available until the Autumn, the government’s strategy to deal with the virus in the interim is not clear.

Indeed, Pagel added how the government:

went ahead with plans to loosen restrictions. Almost all indoor spaces were opened up on 17 May, indoor mixing of households was allowed and mask mandates dropped in secondary schools.

Alarm over border policy

Furthermore, Pagel makes it clear that she’s highly critical of the government’s border policy:

We have a leaky and inefficient border policy. As so many times before, the government did not act on early signs of exponential growth. Every week I’ve become more alarmed by the growth of the Delta variant. Three questions remain: given the evidence we finally now have, will the government act to curb spread? Will we finally adopt a border policy that protects our vaccination programme? And, if a new, worse variant emerges here, will we be able to stop it in time?

But when it comes to football, more than 60,000 fans will be permitted to attend the EURO 2020 semi-finals and final at Wembley. And discussions are underway regarding attendance at the final and semi-finals by 2,500 UEFA/FIFA dignitaries. At this stage, it appears the dignitaries won’t be required to quarantine. Likewise, discussions may also see overseas fans attending the matches without having to quarantine.

However, it’s understood that:

Strict entry requirements will include having a negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination (two doses received, 14 days before the fixture in question).

But given vaccine shortcomings in the face of the Delta variant, and the unreliability of lateral flow testing devices, will these precautions be enough?

Third wave

As to a third wave of the virus, Pagel believes this began some weeks back:

in truth, the third wave started eight weeks ago, when Delta began its march to dominance.

And the statistics appear to bear this out, showing latest daily coronavirus infections for the UK as more than 15,000. Total infections are 4,699,868, though the number of deaths is flatlining, with the latest number recorded over one day as 18.

Furthermore, cases of infection by school-age children are on the rise. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, commented that statistics show:

a large and extremely worrying increase in the number of children absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

It clearly reflects the climbing rate of coronavirus cases in society in general and the prevalence of the Delta variant. It means that many pupils and schools are experiencing yet more disruption after more than a year of turbulence and it is a grim way to reach the closing stages of the school year.

If the third wave is to be better controlled, the government may need to retain existing coronavirus restrictions beyond the 19 July end-of-lockdown date. Or it may even need to expand those restrictions, as proposed by Independent Sage earlier in June.

Featured image via Pexels – RF._.Studio

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