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Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 1st September 2021

As Monday was a Bank Holiday, it is to be expected that today Wednesday will have the highest numbers reported this week. 921,000 tests were done yesterday compared with 672,000 on the Bank Holiday Monday. 35,693 were positive which is 517 less positive cases in the last 7 days compared with the previous week. A fall of just 0.2%. This may well be a figure that is not following the trend, let’s see what tomorrow brings There are now 357.3 positive cases per 100k of the population.

Deaths reported topped 200 today at 207. This compares with only 50 recorded yesterday. Looked at over 7 days, there were 4 less than the previous week, so a drop of 0.5%.

Hospital admissions show 901 new cases admitted on 27th August and a further 842 people admitted on 28th August. This means that 7,598 people in total are in hospital with Covid. The number seriously ill and requiring a ventilator has slowly crept past the 1,000 mark to 1,014.

Immunisations do very slowly improve, 48.08 million have had a 1st dose, that’s 88.5% of those eligible and 42.90 million have had a second dose, that’s 78.9%. We are awaiting expert opinions on immunising the 12-17-year-olds and the provision of boosters to the older members of the community and those deemed vulnerable. We need an announcement soon to settle the uncertainty this is causing.

Ursula Van De Leyen has proudly claimed that 70% of all the EU adults have now been double immunised. She will be displeased that the UK is a full 9% ahead of the EU, despite all the effort to derail our programme. If you look closer at the EU figures you will find little Malta has managed 90% and Ireland and Portugal are on a par with the UK at 80%. At the other end of the scales Bulgaria has only managed 20% and Romania 30%. I wonder if the EU are offering any real help to these relatively poor and struggling countries?

The WHO publishes a regular bulletin to keep us up to date with the Covid variants. The latest one is a new variant known as “Mu” a Greek letter. This was first identified in Colombia central America back in January 2021. Also known as B.1.621 it is a “variant of interest” largely because it has several mutations that indicate a risk of resistance to vaccines, but the WHO stress much more study is needed. The bulletin goes on to say that the Mu variant has a “constellation of mutations” which could indicate the potential properties of immune escape. It has largely been found in Colombia but has been isolated in other south American countries and 1 case in Europe. There is at present no need to be concerned but the situation is being monitored very carefully. I certainly will not be travelling to Colombia any time soon.

In the USA the Centre for Disease Control or CDC report that the Covid 19 vaccines may have lost some of their effectiveness in preventing hospitalisation. The vaccines seem to have fallen to 75% effective in preventing hospitalisation from the 95% first reported at the end of 2020. It still however remains at 95% effective in preventing serious cases. It is not at all clear yet whether this is due to decline in effectiveness of the vaccine over time or whether the Delta variant is now more able to overcome immunisation. A study from the very reputable Mayo Clinic suggested the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was 42% effective whereas the Moderna vaccine is 76% effective against the Delta variant.

Evidence from Israel where boosters are already being given to anyone over 60 with a second jab more than 5 months ago is that a booster immunisation is very effective in restoring the effectiveness to 90%.

I would not claim to be an expert immunologist, but I have studied the evidence carefully and to my mind we have no option but to start a booster programme as soon as possible. Some of our elderly are already 6 months since their second dose and so are many of the very vulnerable who were among the first to be immunised.

At present there is no threat to the UK from variants or mutations, but we must keep our guard up. Given the evidence from Scotland about the rise in children with the disease after they returned to school, and that our children in England are returning now, I think we will have no options but to immunise the over 12s now.

If we do not make immunisation compulsory for all we have to accept that 10% will not follow medical advice. With the figures still creeping up we have little option. 100 deaths a day and nearly 1,000 hospital admissions per day we will not sustain this through the winter.

We want the NHS to cope and indeed catch up on the backlog of cold cases waiting for admission. With the beginning of September, the flu season has returned as well.

Continue all your sensible precautions, encourage the hesitant and further protect yourself as much as practicable. We can do this. Just please stay safe.

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