SUMMER holidays to Europe are within reach as the continent is “set to reach herd immunity by August”, an expert has said.
Ministers are due to give an update on whether foreign travel can resume from May 17 with a list of “green” safe countries.
? Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
But a vaccine chief has given a positive forecast for what to expect.
Uğur Şahin, head of drug company BioNTech – which helped make the Pfizer vaccine – said Europe can achieve herd immunity against the disease within the next four months.
“Europe will reach herd immunity in July, latest by August,” he said on Wednesday.
He based this on a prediction that “50-60 per cent of the population will have received the vaccine" – and a proportion of people will also have immunity through Covid disease.
Currently Europe has given a vaccine dose to just under 30 per cent of the population.
Regardless of vaccines, some popular holiday hotspots such as Spain, Greece and Portugal have all confirmed that they will be welcoming Brits back this summer – and some won't require the vaccine.
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that the "the data does continue to look good," in regards to lifting the travel ban.
Countries like Malta, Gibraltar, the Maldives and Seychelles are tipped to be on the UK’s “green list”, meaning people will not have to quartantine when they come home.
Are we close to herd immunity?
Vaccines are a crucial part of taking the population to herd immunity – when enough people in the population have protection against the virus to suppress it.
As well as preventing severe disease and death, they have been shown to cut transmission of the virus since being given to millions of people.
One shot of a jab cuts the risk of someone who has had it passing the virus to another person by up to half, according to a Public Health England study this week.
Dr Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control, said: “These findings are really important. They add to our reasons to hope that the vaccines will truly add to herd immunity.”
Professor Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiologist at King’s College London, has also said herd immunity is “starting to take effect” in the UK.
“With up to 60 per cent of the population vaccinated and around 5-10 per cent with natural immunity due to infection, we’re starting to see herd immunity take effect."
Herd immunity is a highly debated topic when it comes to Covid.
Scientists have previously said that herd immunity could be achieved when 70 per cent of the population have protection against the disease.
But for other diseases, like measles, it's in the high 90s.
Already in England 70 per cent of adults have antibodies against the coroanvirus, according to Government data released yesterday.
But even if the 70 per cent mark is hit through vaccination programmes, experts have warned that children will not have received a jab, which will contribute to transmission.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said there are millions of children who are not vaccinated and “won’t be vaccinated for some time”.
She told MPs on the Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday: “I think before the recent variant was recognised I think we’re talking about 70 per cent immunity to be that sort of level at which one would expect to be able to keep the R below 1 in normal behaviour.
“Clearly as the adult population are more fully vaccinated we move down to those younger age groups, we will be getting there.
“But I think the younger age groups are the ones who we know have had higher infection rates because they mix more often, they’re out at work, etc.”
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), agreed vaccines would get the UK “pretty close” to herd immunity.
“But I don’t think we’re there yet”, he said. “Although clearly a vaccination programme, and higher levels of natural infection, will get us pretty close to it.”
The exact threshold for Covid herd immunity remains a mystery and some scientists believe it is a myth all together.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and oncologist at the University of Warwick said the concept of herd immunity is “flawed”.
He told MPs at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus meeting last Tuesday: “Most estimates place a threshold at between 60 and 70 per cent of the population gaining immunity through vaccination or past exposure to the virus.
“But I think reaching that threshold is going to be very difficult. Reaching that threshold at a stable threshold – given vaccine hesitancy, the emergence of new variants and even the delayed vaccination of children for instance.
“We still have a lot of unknowns here… It seems that infection associated immunity todes wane over time.
“This does make the whole concept of herd immunity as something we should be reaching as a goal, that will protect the whole community from this infection, very very difficult. It is a flawed concept.”
Source: Read Full Article