THE Covid-19 pandemic would be 'over' if hospitalisations and deaths remain low, one of the Oxford vaccine group professors has said.

Andrew Pollard, a member of the Oxford Vaccine Group which developed the jab being produced by AstraZeneca, also told Radio 4's Today Programme the coronavirus was likely to continue to infect people.

But as long as they only caught the symptoms of the 'common cold' as a result of it, then this was good news.

The Today Programme's presenter, Martha Kearney, this morning asked what it would mean for the pandemic if hospitalisations remained low as a result of vaccination.

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Prof Pollard said: "I think if the current generation of vaccines are able to stop people from going into hospital whilst there is still mild infections – people are getting the common cold with the virus – then the pandemic is over."

He added: "Because we can live with the virus, we are going to have to live with the virus one way or the other, but it doesn’t matter if most people are kept out of hospital because the NHS can continue to function and life can resume as normal."

Speaking this morning, Prof Pollard also explained how effective the current crop of vaccines were against new variants of the coronavirus, like the so-called Indian variant.

A new Public Health England study has shown the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were less effective at stopping the spread of the Indian variant compared with earlier forms of the virus.

At one dose, Pfizer and AstraZeneca both gave 33 per cent protection against the new variant causing severe illness, compared with 50 per cent against the Kent variant.

At two doses, this rose to 88 per cent for Pfizer, and 66 per cent for AstraZeneca, compared with 93 per cent and 66 per cent respectively against the Kent variant.

PHE found that both vaccines still reduced the number of hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19.

Prof Pollard said: "I think in some ways the important information here is a bit about this variant is able to spread slightly better in populations whether they have been vaccinated or not.

"Future variants are going to get even better at doing that. That is the evolution of this virus is that it is going to find ways around immune responses to spread even better.

"That gives a really important public health message which is that if you are unvaccinated then the virus will eventually find those individuals in the population who are unvaccinated, and of course if you are over 50 and unvaccinated you are at much great risk of severe disease.

"There is a really important public health message which comes out of these which is that we have got to get this small number of people who are still unvaccinated to get at least their first dose."

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In recent days, members of SAGE, the group of scientists which is advising the Government on the pandemic, have warned the Indian variant could lead to a third wave of mass infection.

Teachers and union officials have also been worried about the lack of data on the variant’s spread among school children, as it is believed to be more infectious than previous strains.

The Government published data this weekend on the spread of the Indian variant, officially known as B1.617.2, but had omitted records on schools.