Cases of people contracting the South African and Kent variants of the virus after being vaccinated have already been recorded, an NHS expert warned yesterday.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, reassured that vaccines were a ‘primer’ for the immune system and would help reduce hospitalisations and deaths.
But she said: ‘We have seen some people who have had their first dose of the vaccine who have had the South African variant and the variant that arose in Kent.
Dr Susan Hopkins (pictured), chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, reassured that vaccines were a ‘primer’ for the immune system and would help reduce hospitalisations and deaths
‘That’s to be expected, we know that these vaccines aren’t 100 per cent protecting you against infection and that’s why we ask people to take caution.’
She told BBC’s The Andrew Marr show: ‘You can see that [the vaccines are] not as good against the South African variant as they are against our own [variant] B117 at preventing infection and transmission.’
However, she added: ‘When your immune system is exposed to a variation of the same virus it responds faster and more adequately to protect you against severe disease.’
It comes as scientists in Brazil have identified two cases where people were simultaneously infected with two different variants of Covid-19, according to a study.
Dr Susan Hopkins said: ‘That’s to be expected, we know that these vaccines aren’t 100 per cent protecting you against infection and that’s why we ask people to take caution’ (stock image)
Trial infects victims again
Scientists have launched a trial to deliberately infect people with coronavirus after they have already had it.
The study will help establish the level of immune protection which stops people being reinfected, which could help to fast-track future vaccines.
The trial, which is led by the University of Oxford, will expose every volunteer to the virus, so that only those with a strong enough immune response will avoid being reinfected.
Researchers will hope to ascertain what level of immune response protects people. That could mean vaccines which produce that golden level of immunity could be fast-tracked and licensed without trials of tens of thousands of people being necessary.
Professor of vaccinology, Helen McShane – the study leader – said: ‘If we can determine… that a certain level of antibodies means it’s not possible to reinfect somebody, that would feed very immediately into designing the most effective vaccines.’
Both cases were women in their 30s who had typical moderate flu-like symptoms and did not become severely ill, according to the report in the journal Virus Research.
Earlier this month the Lancet also reported a case from Nevada where a man was infected by two different strains of the coronavirus – which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2. The second infection was more severe than the first.
The study authors warned: ‘Previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might not guarantee total immunity in all cases.’
Separately, Environment Secretary George Eustice said there is no evidence that the new Indian variant of coronavirus is able to ‘get around’ the vaccine.
According to the latest update from Public Health England, 77 confirmed cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been detected in the UK, including 73 in England and four in Scotland.
Boris Johnson has also been urged to ‘set an example’ by cancelling his planned trip to India. Labour’s communities spokesman Steve Reed said the Prime Minister should follow his own government’s advice and only travel if he absolutely needs to.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘All of us in public life need to try and set an example. The Government is telling people don’t travel if you don’t absolutely have to travel. I can’t see why the Prime Minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom.’
Mr Johnson was meant to visit for four days, but No 10 has confirmed a ‘slightly shorter’ trip will mean all meetings take place on Monday, April 26.