Hancock details plan for ‘conclusive’ data on vaccine impact on Delta variant

Conclusive data on the effectiveness of vaccines against the UK’s dominant Covid-19 variant will be available in the next couple of weeks, according to Matt Hancock.

The Health Secretary told MPs officials are working on developing the “absolutely critical” figure showing the efficacy of jabs at reducing serious diseases and hospital admissions for the Delta variant first identified in India.

He revealed the timetable after Conservative former minister Mark Harper, chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, pressed for further details.

The UK Government is expected to decide next week whether to proceed with a further easing of restrictions in England on June 21, dubbed “freedom day” by some, amid concerns about the Delta variant.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Harper said: “The Secretary of State yesterday at the statement didn’t have available to hand the information as to the efficacy of the Covid vaccines in reducing serious disease and hospitalisation, and he made a commitment rightly to set them out today at health questions at the despatch box.

“I’m delighted in this question to give him the opportunity to do so.”

Mr Hancock replied in the Commons: “I can set out that a single dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab offers protection of 75% to 85% against hospitalisation while data on two doses, currently only available for Pfizer, indicates 90% to 95% effectiveness against hospitalisation and 95% to 99% effectiveness at preventing death.

“However, the question that (Mr Harper) asked was specific also to the Delta variant and I said that I didn’t have the figure in my head for the reduction in hospitalisations.

“I don’t know whether I should be glad but I can report to him that the reason for that is there is not yet a conclusive figure.

“I spoke to Dr Mary Ramsay, who runs this research at Public Health England, this morning and she told me that this figure is currently being worked on and this analysis (is) being done scientifically, and should be available in the forthcoming couple of weeks.

Deaths involving Covid-19 in England & Wales
(PA Graphics)

“It’s obviously an absolutely critical figure and I’ll report it to the House as soon as we have it.”

The Delta variant is thought to be 40% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first seen in Kent which swept across the UK over the winter peak.

But Mr Hancock has previously said the vaccine was breaking the previously “rock solid” link between infections and hospital admissions.

Conservative former minister Steve Baker, the deputy to Mr Harper in the Covid Recovery Group, said in a statement: “It’s great to hear from the Health Secretary that vaccines continue to break the link between infections and hospitalisations and deaths.

“The Health Secretary confirmed that available evidence demonstrates that two doses give 90-95% protection against hospitalisation and 95-99% protection against death.

“The vaccines are working and the NHS has done a fantastic job.”

He asked the Government to confirm the most vulnerable people to Covid have all been offered a chance to have a second dose, adding: “If this brilliant milestone isn’t enough to convince ministers that we need to lift all remaining restrictions, especially social distancing requirements, on June 21, nothing will ever get us out of this.”