Today’s big question

What does Oxford vaccine efficacy mean for getting back to normal life?

New data shows jab may cut transmission by 67% - raising hopes of end to lockdowns

A single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may have a “substantial effect” on curbing the spread of Covid-19 and provide sustained protection against the virus for at least three months, a new study has found.

Test results from the University of Oxford published in a pre-print report in The Lancet show that the first shot may reduce transmission among people who have had the jab by 67% while providing an average of 76% protection against symptomatic infections from three weeks until 90 days.

In a finding that appears to support the UK’s decision to delay second doses, the research also indicates “that spacing out the second dose by a longer period in fact further increases its efficacy”, reports Politico’s London Playbook.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the news as “absolutely superb”, adding that the early results show that “vaccines are the way out of this pandemic”.

That verdict was echoed by Professor Robert Read, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. As LBC’s Tom Swarbrick tweets, Read is predicting that “if the numbers are right, and we’ve vaccinated 50-year-olds, the government will be in a position to look at a smooth transition to end lockdown”.

The publication of the data has renewed calls for Boris Johnson to reopen schools at the earliest possible opportunity, with senior Tory MPs telling The Telegraph that the prime minister is facing “relentless pressure” from across the party.

Tory MP William Wragg, chair of Parliament’s public administration committee, said yesterday that with schools in Scotland set to reopen within weeks, “I’m wondering what’s holding us back from opening them up in England too”.

While the vaccine data suggests that the UK’s jab campaign is on the right track, however, the discovery of the first domestic Covid mutation has cast a shadow over the celebrations. 

Hancock told the Commons yesterday that coronavirus “mutations of concern” have been found in Bristol and Liverpool. Christina Gray, director of public health for Bristol, added that “early detection of this mutated form of the virus that first appeared in Kent means we can respond swiftly to ramp up testing in the area to better understand the local situation”.

The emergence of more new strains of the coronavirus is “not a surprise”, says The Times’ science editor Tom Whipple, and “tweaked versions of the vaccine in development”.

“The good news is once we all begin to receive those, we will probably be just as safe from the variants as with the bog-standard original version,” he continues. “The bad news is that that will give evolution a niche to try something new.”

Government officials have also moved to temper expectations of a swift end to the current lockdown. Sources told Politico’s London Playbook that with the number of Covid cases per 1,000 people in England currently at 294, compared with 144 in Scotland, Downing Street will continue to take a “cautious” approach.

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