British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines for those above the age of 50 and the clinically vulnerable in the UK will be accelerated as experts are increasingly concerned over the presence of the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 in the country, reported BBC.
The variant that was first found in India in October last year is considered to be 50 to 60 percent more transmissible than the current most dominant variant in the UK, the B.1.1.7 variant. According to figures from Public Health England, the cases of infections caused by this variant have nearly tripled over the last week.
PM Johnson has said that instead of the previous policy of 12 weeks of waiting between doses, the time will now be cut by a third to 8 weeks.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, has said that steps should also be taken to immunise the younger population who are living in multi-generational families as well, BBC reported.
In terms of vaccine effectiveness on the new variant, 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’.
Health experts have raised concerns over the fact that the COVID-19 situation can get much worse than the first wave when the more transmissible variant and opening up of lockdowns combine.
According to the latest data from the UK government, nearly 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine while 36 percent of the UK population has received both doses.