January 17 2021

The Vaccine Manufacture and Innovation Centre (VMIC) is currently being built at speed at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus. When completed it is capable of producing 70 million doses in 5 months which will be enough for every one in the country. Both the current vaccines are being manufactured abroad at the moment in Belgium and the Netherlands. By producing them in the UK we can avoid the production and import delays that have been seen.

Reuters report a French drug maker, Valneva, hopes to introduce its Covid vaccine to be used in the UK between July and September. Once approved there will be 60 million doses available.

With this good news about vaccine supplies we still have to get through this very tough next 4 weeks. There is universal agreement amongst scientists and politicians that we must not relax in any way for a while yet. As one said this morning “No one should be going on holiday yet”.

There are reports from China that a batch of Ice cream may have been contaminated with the Covid virus during production, 29,000 cartons have been seized and only about 390 are unaccounted for. It has been made with milk powder from New Zealand and whey powder from the Ukraine. It is thought the infection has come from an employee rather than infected ingredients. As far as I am aware there is no risk from ice cream bought in the UK.

It concerns me that a Press Association report, if true, is suggesting that up to 20% of care staff in care homes are declining the vaccination when offered. It clearly needs verifying and its findings confirmed. Apparently, it is younger female staff members who do not want it. This poses two questions. Firstly, does the vaccine need to be compulsory? And secondly, should they be able to be employed in a care home if not protected from its biggest threat. What are Health and Safety implications? Insurance and Compensation implications also need to be clarified. My fear is that this is linked to the false information circulating about the risks of the vaccine and pregnancy. At present it is standard practice not to routinely immunise during pregnancy, but to delay until the pregnancy is finished unless the risks of Covid are so high the risk of having it when pregnant are out-weighed. There are no reports of harm to mother or baby in the limited data so far available. My own view is that we cannot make the vaccine compulsory although it has been done before when Smallpox was made compulsory in the past, subject to some contraindications like widespread eczema. We can however, insist staff at risk have adequate protection against Covid in the same way we do with Hepatitis B.

Sir Simon Stevens had some interesting statistics this morning. There is an admission to an NHS Hospital in England every 30 seconds, we have filled an equivalent of 30 hospitals of 1,000 beds since Christmas.

With every day the same, it’s difficult to remember it’s Sunday until you look at the statistics published today. The death figures are always low on a Sunday but at 704 today it is still the highest Sunday figure for the whole pandemic. And the rate is almost 10 at 9.9 per 100k.There were only 38,598 new positive tests. This is a fall of 22.5% at a rate of 502.7 per 100k. There were 655,148 tests done in the last 24 hours.

When you compare the number of patients being immunised against the number being infected it is pleasing to see that the numbers being vaccinated per day is 4 times more than the number being admitted. This ratio will go on improving.

Another bizarre figure is that some 200 Combat Medical Technicians from the Military have been deployed in clinical roles to replace the 50,000 members of staff off sick with Covid related problems. I knew the army were brilliant, but that’s a statistic too far.

You know the rules, you know the end is in sight.

Stay at home, stay apart and above all keep safe.

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