Arguments about supplies of vaccine in the UK continue to build tonight. Mr Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca has gone public to try and explain the position of his company. English is not his first language. He said ‘of course we are all disappointed . We would like to produce more. I think we will deliver up to Europe in the month of February a reasonable quantity, actually, very similar to what others have delivered on a monthly basis, But of course, its less than expected and also because our vaccine is easy to use people expected more so we could scale up. Our team is working 24/7 to fix the very much issues of the production of the vaccine itself. You have two steps in the production of a vaccine: one is you produce the vaccine itself. We call it drug substance, the vaccine. Then, when we are finished with it, we move this to different plants where we put the vaccine into vials and we call that the drug product, the final product. For Europe the drugs substance is essentially produced in two plants one in the Netherlands and one in Belgium, The drug product is actually produced in Italy and Germany. So, from a drug product viewpoint, we have full capacity. We have zero problem. The current problems have to do with manufacturing the drugs substance’.
Mr Soriot went on to explain the technicalities of down stream filtering had produced difficulties which are now sorted we believe, but we are basically 2 months behind where we wanted to be. ‘ We have had teething issues in the UK supply chain as well. But the UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal. So for the UK we had an extra 3 months to fix the glitched, As for Europe we are three months behind fixing the glitches. Would I like to do better? Of course. But, you know if we deliver in February what we are planning to deliver, its not small volume. We are planning to deliver millions of doses to Europe, it’s not small.’ We are awaiting EMA approval, in the next few days and then we will ship at least 3 million doses immediately to Europe.
It is difficult to sort out the truth from media scare mongering, but the media are suggesting the EU are threatening to blockade the vaccine in Belgium and to demand some of the British Stock. The UK Government are resisting this but in a supportive Gesture the PM has said he does not rule out coming to the aid of Europe once all out over 50s are immunised. The EU were clearly slow getting their act together over the vaccines. France has suspended immunisation in several areas as the have run out of vaccine. They plan to restart on 2nd February. Madrid has also ceased vaccine due to supply issues and Germany has postponed opening vaccination centres until 8th February.
Serbia is now the second leading European country to give vaccine thanks to great support from the Chinese.
In another example of exasperation several countries have gone their own way in determining their policy over their borders rather than wait for a common EU policy. Germany has made its decisions independently. Belgium and the Netherlands have already acted independently. Belgium has banned all but essential traffic by land , sea and air. The Netherlands has banned flights from the UK, South Africa and South America.
I reported last night about a suspicious packet at the Wrexham Covid plant which caused it to be closed while the Bomb squad has investigated. Today I learn a man has been detained on suspicion of sending the package. There are little details but I think is likely a disturbed individual rather than terrorist.
There is a promising new Covid test known as the LamPORE Covid 19 test. It is said to have very high sensitivity (99.57% ) and Specificity (99.4 %). It is made by Vanerva in Scotland . They claim to be able to process 2,000 tests per day in pop up labs. The test is done on saliva.
France now suggests that as many as 1 in 10 cases in France are due to the Kent variant. it looks as though they are sliding towards a third lockdown but are anxious about precipitating further civil disorder.
One of the readers lives and works in Russia and they sent me an interesting update about life in Moscow. Interestingly in addition to the usual statistics they publish numbers of daily discharges from hospital and a number for those fully recovering . The rate of recent infections is dropping in Moscow and 1,837 cases of the Kent variant have been detected but so far not the South African or Brazilian variant. There is a free voluntary mass vaccination programme in Moscow and foreign nationals working there can also have it free.
Another reader reports that in Turkey he has been immunised with a Chinese vaccine without any problems. It is good to hear from other parts of the world. I know this is read in many different countries , please share how you are doing.
For the first time for a while, I can say all the data is going in the right direction. 771,710 tests were done today ( a very high number) and 28,680 of those were positive. The rate testing positive has fallen 29.8% in the last week and the rate is now 346/100k. There are no new hospital figures today. 3088 people were admitted a fall of 11% on a week ago.
Almost 7.5 million first doses and nearly half a million second doses have been given.
Deaths were recorded as 1, 239. This is a fall, admittedly of only 0.2% but suggests the death rate is no longer rising. Do not let it be forgotten that we have lost 8.5k loved ones in the last week.
My experiences having the vaccine this morning mirrors many others. It was very well organised with very cheerful staff to put people at ease. I took the opportunity to talk to staff and patients, I was able, I think, to reduce the anxiety of many people. I learnt that in the two weeks they have been working they have not seen any significant reactions. They had a well organised area to give medical help but has not even been used once. So, if you are anxious please try not to be.
Just keep going. I shall not do anything different now.
I have no protection for at least two weeks so like everyone I ill be staying at home, staying apart.
Please stay safe.