Delta strain challenges Britain’s vaccine strategy

Delta strain challenges Britain's vaccine strategy 0

When Britain in April emerged from one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns, it had reason to believe that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic was over.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson endlessly praised the success of the vaccination rollout campaign and promised a `cautious but irreversible` roadmap that would help remove virtually all restrictions and bring the country back to normal.

But the deadline has been delayed and a sense of normalcy still seems far away for the British people.

People line up outside a Covid-19 vaccination center in London, England, June 20.

Although nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK have been vaccinated with the full number of shots, the country is facing the risk of facing a third wave of Covid-19.

Hospitalizations and deaths are rising again but at a relatively slow pace, highlighting the benefits of vaccines but also highlighting the unpredictable nature of the new pandemic period in the UK.

That’s why Britain has now become an important testbed for the world to assess the battle between vaccines and mutations, the first example of a large country with high vaccination rates dealing with a surge in vaccination rates.

`This variant has the potential to change the trend of the pandemic in your country,` Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, UK, told CNN.

The impact of vaccines in the UK is already clear.

A study by Public Health England (PHE) published this month showed that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective, 96% and 92% respectively, helping to prevent the risk of importation.

Another PHE analysis of hospital admissions found similarly high levels of protection in fully vaccinated people.

With the vaccine being provided to all people aged 18 and over, new British Health Minister Sajid Javid announced that he did not see `any reason` to delay the new opening date on July 19.

Delta strain challenges Britain's vaccine strategy

Prime Minister Johnson on June 29 said it was `most likely` that Britain `could return to pre-Covid life` at this time.

However, some countries are still extremely cautious, starting to impose stricter control rules on people coming from the UK in an effort to prevent the Delta variant from entering.

Germany last week opened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign visitors, but Britain is not on the list.

Even within Britain, some experts worry officials are ignoring important lessons about the Delta strain.

`What we are seeing is the danger of a vaccine-only strategy,` Gurdasani said.

The Delta variant now causes most new infections in the UK.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile warned that the European Union is in a situation of `standing on thin ice` in the war with Delta, fearing that this mutation will destroy all the continent’s efforts over the past time.

Faced with the danger of the Delta variant, experts in the UK are urging the government and the community to change their perception of Covid-19.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received the second dose of vaccine at the Francis Crick Institute in London on June 3.

`Many people have symptoms similar to seasonal flu or even pollen allergies,` Gurdasani said.

Some countries have added new symptoms of Covid-19 infection.

But in the UK, the three Covid-19 symptoms that require testing have remained unchanged since the outbreak until now, including fever, cough and changes in taste or smell.

This is very different from the data on epidemiologist Tim Spector’s Covid-19 ZOE symptom research application.

`We are seeing a range of different symptoms and many people will not realize they have Covid-19 based solely on the signs given by the government,` Spector said.

As the virus is spreading rapidly to younger age groups, experts are calling on officials to focus their control strategy on a new target: Schools.

`There’s clearly a lot of transmission inside schools. We don’t have a response to that yet,` Gurdasani noted.

The UK Department for Education said that in public schools, one in 30 students was absent from school for reasons related to Covid-19 in the second week of June, up from 1 in 83 the previous week.

Reasons include having Covid-19 infection or having to self-isolate due to close contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

`It has become a virus of young people and we are causing this to happen by not preventing transmission in settings like schools,` Gurdasani said.

Recent outbreaks of the Delta variant in schools in Israel, another country with high vaccination rates, have increased concerns.

`We need to refocus our entire strategy on minimizing transmission,` Gurdasani said.

Vu Hoang (According to CNN)

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