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  • Britain is not alone in the fight against Covid-19,

  • but it is an interesting case study for those

  • looking to escape lockdown.

  • On the one hand, one of the most advanced vaccine programmes

  • in the world.

  • On the other, a new variant of coronavirus that's

  • infecting the population in record numbers.

  • Hopes now lie with the UK government's pledge

  • to offer a vaccine to 15m of the most vulnerable Britons

  • by the middle of February.

  • 88 per cent of people currently dying from the virus

  • come from these groups.

  • With them protected it's thought that the rest of the population

  • should be able to enjoy more freedom without putting

  • the health services under too much strain.

  • That moment may come after the February half-term,

  • although we should remain extremely

  • cautious about the timetable ahead.

  • But whether the vaccination target will be met

  • and whether it will be enough to end lockdown

  • are two very different questions.

  • And a lot could happen between now and mid-February that would

  • change the outcome of both.

  • Here's what to look out for.

  • If the UK wants to vaccinate 15m people by mid-February it will

  • have to administer 2.5m doses per week for the next five

  • weeks.

  • At the moment, that figure is closer to 2.1m per week.

  • And Britain's health secretary has suggested delays

  • in scaling that up are down to the limited supply of vaccines.

  • The rate limiting step is the supply of vaccine.

  • And we're working with the companies

  • to increase the supply.

  • It's true that manufacturing is still getting up to speed.

  • And there are even shortages of the glass vials

  • that batches are transported in.

  • But bringing enough vaccination sites on stream

  • and hiring enough people to man them

  • is also presenting challenges.

  • The government has set up plans for 2,700 vaccination centres,

  • including hospitals, doctor surgeries, pharmacies, and up

  • to 15 mass vaccination sites.

  • At the same time the NHS has hired 80,000 professionals

  • to run the campaign.

  • But frustrations have mounted about how quickly the programme

  • is being set up, and policymakers are already

  • looking at other ways to accelerate uptake.

  • Right now, Israel is head and shoulders above other countries

  • when it comes to vaccinations per capita,

  • thanks in part to a highly centralised,

  • digital health system that makes it

  • easy to reach out to members of the public

  • and sign them up for a jab.

  • Britain has started to follow this lead

  • by sending out vaccination letters

  • from central government.

  • And in another attempt to speed things along,

  • Westminster has extended the gap between first and second doses,

  • although that strategy has its critics.

  • When Pfizer and BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca

  • completed their clinical trials they

  • recommended a three-week gap between first and second doses.

  • But now a growing number of scientists, including

  • the UK'S Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation

  • and researchers at Oxford and AstraZeneca,

  • are recommending that the gap gets pushed much further

  • out to up to 12 weeks.

  • By extending the gap, we are going to,

  • over the next three months be able to essentially double

  • the number of people who can be vaccinated.

  • Hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19

  • are currently at the highest they've ever been.

  • With more people receiving the limited protection offered

  • by the first dose quicker, the logic

  • is this strategy could take pressure

  • off Britain's overstretched health service.

  • And that, in turn, could offer a quicker path

  • to easing restrictions.

  • Even though some scientists are confident that extending

  • the gap between doses won't make the vaccine any less effective,

  • others aren't sure there's enough evidence about how much

  • immunity a single dose confers.

  • They've also warned that partially boosting

  • the immune system could create an opportunity for the virus

  • to mutate and become more resistant.

  • If that happens, all hopes of a swift exit from the crisis

  • will be dashed.

  • Thankfully, at the moment, there isn't evidence

  • that this is likely to happen.

  • The current UK lockdown is in large part

  • due to a new variant that emerged

  • in London and Kent called B117.

  • Early research suggests that neither this variant,

  • nor one originating in South Africa,

  • are likely to be more resistant to the current crop

  • of vaccines.

  • But experts have warned that we should

  • be prepared for many more variants

  • to emerge this year than last as the virus adapts

  • to its new human host.

  • If new variants evade both natural and vaccine-induced

  • immune responses the vaccines can be tweaked to catch up.

  • But analysts say this could take anywhere between one and nine

  • months, depending on what regulators demand.

  • The race between vaccines and the virus has a long way to go.

  • But the new variants that popped up last year

  • have given Covid-19 a head start.

  • Whether the UK hits its vaccination target

  • of 15m people by mid-February is hugely important

  • but not just for the sake of easing the lockdown here.

  • If vaccines don't catch up with the virus soon,

  • we could all find ourselves back on square one

  • with a new variant pulling far ahead.

Britain is not alone in the fight against Covid-19,

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Coronavirus: the race between vaccines and new variants I FT

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    joey joey に公開 2021 年 05 月 23 日
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