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Doc Hines - Covid News & Views - 24th August 2021

To boost or not to boost --- that is the question? The WHO says firmly NO but what do you say? Do we just go with the flow, or do we stay firm and assist to immunise the rest of the world first?

Israel has already begun its booster programme. The USA is about to start, and the UK plans to begin on a date to be announced next month. It seems for most people immunity lasts for at least 6 months after the last injection. Many still have immunity at 8 months, but not much is known after that. Most people think that ideally immunity should be boosted annually together with the influenza vaccine. The race is on to produce a cheap effective combined vaccine that could be used to reduce the number of injections that would be required. Just how feasible is it to get the rest of the world immunised? There are enormous logistic problems to do it as well as a massive education programme.

There are still many areas of the world that are unsafe. We cannot get British expats out of Afghanistan, could we really immunise all the Taliban?

I have not heard any strong leadership from the various multi-faith leaders around the world about the distribution of vaccines Meanwhile the UK has ordered 35 million Pfizer doses to be delivered for the second half of next year.

The statistics over the weekend have followed the weekend pattern seen each week. There continues to be a very slow rise in the figures which reflects the fact that the younger generations have been slow to get their immunisations completed. There is still nearly a quarter of the population not properly immunised.

Testing yesterday fell below 680k whereas the previous 2 days were both over 820k. the number positive was 31,914, having been over 30k for the last few days. The positive test rate is 327.4 per 100k of the population.

The death figure was only 40 today, but I fear will be over 100 tomorrow. There have been 701 deaths in total for the last 7 days, 70 more than the previous week. The rate remains at 0.9 per 100k of the population.

Health data is scarce over the weekend. The latest figures are as follows; daily admissions are 948 as of 17th August. The number currently in hospital on 19th August is 6,441. Of these 928 were on a ventilator also on 19th August.

With the immunisation programme, 47.69million 1st doses have been given or 87.7%. With the 2nd doses it is 41.81 million or 76.9%

Anti-vaccine protesters continue to be disruptive. they have stormed the HQ of the ITN news in Grays Inn Road and there was a similar protest in Melbourne Australia.

I hope many of those that test positive for covid infection will contribute to the new study just launched. It is hoped to recruit up to 8,000 patients a day. It involves being sent 2 finger-prick blood tests to do at home. The first is required immediately after testing positive. This will show whether the patient had any pre-existing antibodies to Covid either from previous infection or immunisation. The second test for antibodies 4 weeks later shows just how many antibodies have been produced as a result of the infection. The study will also help determine which groups of patients do not have a good immunity response after catching the virus, or after being immunised. This will help determine priorities for future booster vaccines. The T cell immunity that also develops after an infection is still proving difficult to measure easily.

The UK medicines regulator has just approved a new drug, the first of its kind, to be used in the treatment of covid 19 infections. Known as Ronapreve. It should help prevent infection when given soon after exposure. It is claimed to cut the risks of hospitalisation. It will cost up to £2,000 per patient, so I fear it will be reserved for the vulnerable rather than for general routine use.

In New Zealand their new outbreak continues to cause concern, the number of cases is now 107 with 35 more new cases, the highest number since April of last year. The harsh lockdown has been extended for a further week and their Parliament is to close for a week. There are signs of discontent about the way it's being handled for the first time.

In France, as the children go back to school it has been stated that all children must return and that health passes are not required. The older children must wear masks. The ventilation of rooms is to be improved and provided they are fully immunised will not be required to self-isolate at home. All children over 12 have been offered immunisation in France.

To return to the question of boosters; If we accept the principle of doing “the greatest good for the greatest numbers”, then I suspect the compromise is to give our most elderly and most vulnerable boosters as we have the vaccine available and then to try and persuade the G7 group of nations to provide both the vaccine and the staff required to try and immunise as much of the rest of the world as possible. Many areas we will not be able to reach for one reason or another, but we will have done our best. As chairs of the G7, we should be right behind the WHO in their efforts to make us all as safe as possible.

We can make ourselves as safe as possible and those close to us. Do not forget the early Hands Face and Space message, that can save many lives still. Take the children and grandchildren over 16 to be immunised and if vulnerable over 12.

Stay safe everyone.

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