(Adds response from UK Health Department)
Dec 29 (Reuters) - Britain must vaccinate two million people a week to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has concluded.
The UK has had more than 71,000 deaths from the coronavirus and over 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 infections as of late Monday, according to a Reuters tally.
“The most stringent intervention scenario with tier 4 (restrictions) England-wide and schools closed during January and 2 million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU (intensive care) burden below the levels seen during the first wave”, the study said.
“In the absence of substantial vaccine roll-out, cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020.”
An accelerated uptake of two million vaccinated per week "is predicted to have a much more substantial impact", it added bit.ly/3o9l2MJ. The study has yet to be peer-reviewed.
Responding to the study, a UK Health Department spokesman told Reuters that “over the coming weeks and months the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.”
The British government has said it has secured early access to 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several developers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers have said a variant of the coronavirus, which could be up to 70% more transmissible, is spreading rapidly in Britain, although it is not thought to be more deadly or to cause more serious illness.
That prompted tight social mixing restriction measures for London and southeast England, while plans to ease curbs over Christmas across the nation were dramatically scaled back or scrapped altogether.
Media reports over the weekend said Britain will roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Jan. 4, with approval by the country’s medical regulator expected within days.
Earlier this month, Britain became the first country in the world to roll out the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The British government said on Thursday that 600,000 people had received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry and Giles Elgood