Fact Check-Warnings of a third coronavirus wave in Britain are not suggestions that the vaccination campaign has failed

Social media posts have suggested the British government would not warn of a third wave of coronavirus infections if vaccines worked properly. However, this claim needs context.

Examples can be seen (here) and (here) and have been shared thousands of times. They ask: “If the vaccine works, why will the UK experience a third wave? If the vaccine doesn’t work, why is everyone being coerced into having it? Am I missing something?”

The posts come in response to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s warning on March 22 that the third wave of COVID-19 infections currently sweeping across Europe could be heading towards Britain. (here). “Previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, it, I’m afraid, washes up on our shores as well and I expect that we will feel those effects in due course,” Johnson said.

Firstly, much of the United Kingdom’s population has yet to receive the jab. Out of 67 million people, around 28 million have had the first dose of the vaccine. Only 2 million people have received the second dose, which is needed for the maximum amount of protection (here). This means the majority of the population is not protected against the virus.

Secondly, even though the vaccines are highly effective against variants of COVID-19 circulating in the United Kingdom, studies suggest that it offers significantly less protection against variants spreading in other countries (here, (here). There has therefore been concern that people travelling to the United Kingdom could import variants that are somewhat resistant to the vaccines.

As a result, Johnson has warned Britain might need to toughen restrictions on arrivals from countries like France, where variants are causing a sharp rise in cases (here).


Missing context. While the vaccines are highly effective against strains circulating in the United Kingdom, there are concerns that they offer less protection against variants in other countries.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.