One AstraZeneca dose gives 82pc protection against beta variant hospitalisation or death

·3-min read
People arriving in the UK from France still have to quarantine because of concerns over the beta variant - Yui Mok/PA
People arriving in the UK from France still have to quarantine because of concerns over the beta variant - Yui Mok/PA

A single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine gives more than 80 per cent protection against hospitalisation or death from the beta Covid variant, new research shows, increasing pressure on the Government to lift French travel restrictions.

From Monday, people from the US or EU who are fully vaccinated no longer have to isolate when arriving in the UK from an amber list country.

But travellers from France must still quarantine amid fears of importing the beta variant, which originated in South Africa, and there are concerns that both Italy and Spain could soon be added to the same "amber plus" list.

The measures were put in place because a trial suggested the beta variant lowered vaccine effectiveness to just 10 per cent – but new real world data from Canada suggest the AstraZeneca jab gives 82 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death after one dose.

Although there has not been enough time to gauge the effectiveness of two doses, study authors from the The Canadian Immunization Research Network said being fully vaccinated was likely to confer higher protection.

Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president, biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said: "With different variants threatening to disrupt our route out of the pandemic, this real-world evidence shows that the vaccine, along with other vaccines used in Canada, provides a high level of protection against the most serious forms of the disease even after just one shot.

"It is essential that we continue to protect as many people as possible in all corners of the world in order to get ahead of this deadly virus."

In February, South Africa halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca jab after trials showed that the beta variant all but wiped out any benefit. However, critics pointed out that the trial subjects had been young and healthy, making gauging its effectiveness against severe disease impossible.

New data from 421,073 Canadians show the vaccine provided "good to excellent protection against symptomatic infection and severe outcomes" even after a single dose.

The research will make it harder for the UK Government to justify ongoing restrictions for travellers from France.

Last week, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, defended the "amber plus" designation and said: "We don't want to have got this far with vaccinations and then throw it all away because a variant that the vaccine perhaps couldn't handle came in."

However, he said that the latest research on vaccine effectiveness against the beta variant was being "constantly reviewed".

Beta variant cases have dropped considerably in France in recent weeks as the delta variant has taken hold, and now make up just 1.9 per cent of all infections.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's Europe minister, has said there is no basis for keeping the country on the "amber plus" list. The UK's traffic light travel list will be updated on Thursday, when France is expected to be lowered to amber.

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