Britain won’t achieve herd immunity with the current coronavirus vaccines even if every single Briton is injected, a study claimed today.
It came as Boris Johnson refused to rule out keeping the lockdown in place until the summer and SAGE scientists warned draconian restrictions will be needed until May.
Analysis from the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that the efficacy of current vaccines, combined with the emergence of more infectious variants of the virus, meant keeping the R below one without lockdown restrictions could become impossible.
UEA researchers say that even if every man, woman and child in the UK gets both doses of the Oxford jab it would only bring the R — the average number of people each patient infects — down to 1.3. But, because this vaccine is approved for over-18s only, the R would remain at about two when curbs are lifted completely.
The study found Pfizer’s jab – which is more effective at blocking coronavirus than the Oxford one – is capable of bringing the R below one and achieving herd immunity but it would require inoculating teenagers. Currently the jab is only approved for over-16s. Researchers warned it would ‘likely be impossible’ to hit the 82 per cent target needed for herd immunity because ‘people will refuse the vaccine’.