Second Covid vaccine doses to be used to tackle the Indian variant, UK Government said

Second Covid vaccine doses to be used to tackle the Indian variant, UK Government said


The Second Covid-19 vaccine doses to be administered to tackle the Indian variant of coronavirus, the United Kingdom Government announced. 

Minister Nadhim Zahawi said steps could also include vaccinating younger people in multi-generational households.

Meanwhile, a top scientist has warned lifting restrictions on 21 June is in doubt because of the Indian variant.

Cases in the UK have more than doubled to 1,313, Public Health England said.

The figures released on Thursday have risen from 520 cases recorded by PHE up to 5 May.

However, Prof Paul Hunter, who sits on a number of Covid advisory committees for the World Health Organization, said current figures were around two weeks out of date and would now be higher.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Indian variant was now in most regions of the UK, with the possible exception of Yorkshire and Humber and north-east England.

The Department of Health and Social Care said there was "no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine".

But experts believe it may be more transmissible.

And the department said ministers could not rule out imposing local restrictions if they were necessary to suppress a variant which vaccines are less effective against.

Vaccines Minister Mr Zahawi said the government was also considering reducing the gap between vaccine doses for people in areas where the variant is spreading.

He added that pilots of vaccinating younger people in multi-generational households in Luton had been successful.

Prof Hunter said there was "possibly" a case for targeting vaccines in certain areas - but jabs took two to three weeks to work. This would mean diverting doses from other areas, where the Indian variant could also soon be spreading.

He added that he thought it was more important to administer as many first doses as possible than boost the number of second doses at this stage.

Lockdown easing 'in doubt'

The next major easing of restrictions is due to take place on 17 May. But Prof Hunter said step four of the roadmap out of lockdown, which is due on 21 June and would see all legal limits on social contact lifted, "is in doubt".

Currently, he said the Indian variant was spreading in younger, unvaccinated people but if cases increased in the elderly so would hospital admissions, putting pressure on the NHS.

Mr Zahawi said easing restrictions on 21 June depended on the government's four tests being met - including that vaccines continue to be effective and the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants.