The director of the Oxford Vaccine Centre, Andrew Pollard, warned on Tuesday that achieving herd immunity to the coronavirus is “not a possibility” once the Delta variant becomes dominant.

Pollard, who led the design of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine along with immunologist Sarah Gilbert, told a parliamentary committee that vaccination programmes should not be based on the idea of achieving such “herd immunity”.

“We know clearly that with the current variant of the coronavirus, the Delta, (the virus) will continue to infect people who have been vaccinated, and that means that anyone who has not yet been vaccinated will at some point encounter the virus,” the scientist told MPs.

He said that in the future “a variant could emerge that may even transmit better among vaccinated populations”, so “that gives even more reason not to pivot vaccination programmes around herd immunity”.

With six months to go, Pollard believes there will be a “consolidation phase” in the UK’s fight against the virus and that COVID will go from “epidemic” to “endemic”.

NHS England published a report last week warning that there are indications that “virus levels in those vaccinated people who become infected with delta may be similar to those found in unvaccinated people”, affecting the ease of transmission of the pathogen.

Among about 1,500 patients hospitalised with the delta variant in the UK since 19 July, 55.1 per cent were unvaccinated, while 34.9 per cent had received the full course, the report said.

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