Vaccine expert slams EU's 'hopeless' tracking of Covid outbreaks

Vaccine expert slams EU’s ‘completely hopeless’ tracking of Covid outbreaks as he warns ‘biggest risk’ to UK is importing South African variant from Europe

  • Professor Sir John Bell is leading member of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine team
  • He said ‘biggest risk’ to the UK is importing South African variant from Europe
  • He said Europe has been ‘completely hopeless’ at tracking Covid variant spread

A leading vaccine expert has slammed the EU’s ‘completely hopeless’ efforts to track outbreaks of coronavirus variants. 

Sir John Bell, a prominent member of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine team, said a lack of genome sequencing on the continent means importing the South African variant from Europe is now the ‘biggest risk’ facing the UK.  

Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine warned ‘there’s quite a lot’ of cases of the South African variant in circulation in EU countries amid a wider spike in infections. 

Sir John Bell, a prominent member of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine team, said a lack of genome sequencing on the continent meant importing the South African variant from Europe is now the ‘biggest risk’ facing the UK

Genome sequencing has allowed the UK to track the emergence and spread of variants of the disease on home soil. 

But Sir John said of the EU’s ability to do the same: ‘They’re hopeless. Completely hopeless. It’s really not going well in Europe.’ 

He told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘We think the AstraZeneca vaccine is pretty good at reducing transmissions, but not with the South Africa strain.

‘And I think the same will be true with Johnson and Pfizer and everybody else.

‘I think our biggest risk in the UK will be that South Africa gets to us from the European continent, where there’s quite a lot of it now.’

Experts fear a failure to combat the spread of coronavirus could lead to the emergence of more dangerous variants of the disease which could evade the current set of vaccines.

Sir John yesterday criticised France for refusing to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to under-55s after the country previously said the jab was unsuitable for older people. 

Sir John warned the changing advice was undermining confidence in the whole vaccination programme.

He told the BBC: ‘It doesn’t make any sense. The whole thing looks completely crackers. They are changing the rules almost every week. 

‘They are really damaging people’s confidence in vaccines generally – not just the AstraZeneca vaccine.’

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