Ministers have been warned that the UK must double its vaccination target from one million vaccines administered per week to two million a week in order to avoid “large resurgences” of the virus.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) issued the warning in a paper that was shared with the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
‘2m vaccines per week will have a much more substantial impact’
The paper said, “Vaccine roll out will further mitigate transmission, although the impact of vaccinating 200,000 people per week - similar in magnitude to the rates reached in December 2020 - may be relatively small.
“An accelerated uptake of two million people vaccinated per week is predicted to have a much more substantial impact.
“The most stringent intervention scenario with Tier 4 England-wide and schools closed during January, and two million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU burden below the levels seen during the first wave.”
The paper, which is yet to be peer reviewed, also said, “We project that large resurgences of the virus are likely to occur following easing of control measures.”
‘We are going to have to speed up’
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, and member of SAGE, said that he did not feel that the one million weekly vaccination target would be enough to stop the spread of the virus.
Speaking to the Today programme, he said, “If we do manage to hit the target of one million a week, frankly I don’t think that is enough.
“We are going to have to speed that up if we want to get the country covered.”
Previously, Farrar, together with Professor Tim Cook, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine from the University of Bristol, warned that it could take almost a year to vaccinate the entire UK population against Covid-19.
Writing in the journal Anaesthesia, they said, “The scale of the vaccination programme should not be underestimated: 1,000 vaccination centres each vaccinating 500 people a day for five days a week, without interruptions of supply or delivery, would take almost a year to provide two doses to the UK population.”
Over 600,000 people vaccinated in the UK
A government spokesperson said, “The UK was the first country in the world to start a vaccination programme using the Pfzier/BioNTech vaccine, and because of our swift and decisive action there has been a regular and steady supply of vaccine doses arriving into the UK since early December.
“Our brilliant NHS has now vaccinated over 600,000 people against Covid-19, and over the coming weeks and months, the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.”
In November, the government said that 40 million doses were expected by the end of 2021, which would be enough to vaccinate around a third of the population.
The UK has early access to 357 million vaccine doses through agreements with various different developers, however only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use so far.