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New Data on One Vaccine’s Impact on Transmission Could Offer Restaurants Some Hope

The first study of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine’s impact on transmission brings cautious optimism

A patient receives the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Wales
A patient receives a coronavirus vaccine in Wales
Huw Fairclough/Getty Images

Preliminary data on the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine’s impact on the spread of COVID-19 suggests that it reduces transmission by up to 67 percent, according to a study from the University of Oxford. The study is yet to be formally published or peer-reviewed. If the data is replicable, it suggests that at least one of the four coronavirus vaccines currently slated for use in the U.K. will not just protect against symptomatic disease and severe illness, but contribute to a reduction in case numbers and asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus.

This would be good news for hospitality workers, businesses, and diners, as it would point to the vaccine being a genuinely effective measure in a return to levels of trading and occupancy approaching “normal” over time. Previously, the vaccine had been cited only as a preventative measure against severe illness, death, and pressure on the NHS; it was not presented as a barrier against the asymptomatic transmission that accounts for up to 33 percent of coronavirus cases and drives the disease into more vulnerable demographics without visibly affecting those who pass it on. While this does not mean restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars might reopen without restrictions when the time comes, it does offer hope that those restrictions might not be in place for as long as they thought.

Health secretary Matt Hancock called the study “superb,” telling the BBC that if vindicated it would show how this vaccine could “help us all get out of this pandemic”; others may remark on how proper testing and tracing and isolation programmes could have done so sooner. Because the vaccines developed alongside AstraZeneca’s — including Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax — all function via the virus’ spike protein, the hope is that this data offers a clue to those vaccines’ impact on transmission. That’s all it is so far, a hope. Concerns also remain that newer variants of COVID-19 may be more resistant to some elements of vaccine protection than those accounted for by this study, but not to the extent of causing severe illness.

Eater has contacted U.K. Hospitality for comment on the data; restaurants are yet to meaningfully respond to it. While atmospheric optimism is hard to quantify, it can also be influential for workers and diners alike, and in twelve months that have offered precious little of it, this news might buoy the capital’s hospitality world, as it enters what increasingly looks like crunch time for its future.