February 3 2021

Today, interspersed with many more tributes to the late Sir Tom Moore, have been encouraging reports about vaccine efficacy, particularly relating to the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine.

The next generation of Covid 19 vaccines are already being worked on and are likely to be ready by the Autumn say the manufacturers of the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine. They are working round the clock to enhance protection against new variants. It is still not clear whether or not the new variant I described last night and known as E484K will make the vaccine any less effective but the new modified vaccines will be able to tackle this and other emerging variants and it is recognised this will be an ongoing continuous process. Fortunately modifying the vaccine is a very much quicker process than developing the original vaccine. Large scale testing is not required for a modified vaccine and there are unlikely to be supply issues with any updated vaccine.

Data released last night ahead of a paper to be published in the Lancet, once peer reviewed, showed that for a single jab 76% efficacy is achieved at 12 weeks. After the second dose the transmission of the virus is reduced by 2/3rds. This is the really good news we have all waited for. Transmission cannot be measured in clinical trials as they cannot ethically simulate the conditions where a vaccinated person can go out and about among non-vaccinated people to see how many get infected. So, there is no data to refer to. It is so important because if a vaccine prevents one person from being severely ill, but they still catch the virus and can pass it on, then everyone needs a jab to protect them.

If having a vaccine means that transmission to others from the host is also stopped or reduced it means that others are also protected from the one vaccine. With less virus circulating there is also much less chance of mutations.

With transmissibility of the virus reduced by 66% after the second dose of the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine, we will reduce the amount of circulating virus that much quicker.

Matt Hancock declared himself very pleased. It was him who argued for 100 million doses as a first order of the AZ vaccine. It also vindicated the Government for following scientific advice that they could do the greatest good for the greatest numbers by suspending the second dose until 12 weeks from the first.

There are still the inevitable rumblings from the EU. In a very unexpected move the Regulatory Body in Switzerland has gone out alone against the EU Regulatory Body and refused to license the AZ vaccine in Switzerland because they claim it does not have the evidence it requires. Switzerland is a small country with a small population, it will not make that much difference to AZ but may well make Switzerland look stupid. There are other EU countries who think there is insufficient data for use in the elderly. So far Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Poland have advised it should not be given to the over 65s. This would seem to be a purely political decision. I am happy with the view of all our scientists and our politicians that it is safe and very efficacious. We shall see what today’s reports about the vaccine do to those still angry about vaccine supplies.

450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have had to be destroyed after a refrigerator was accidentally turned off with 90 vials of vaccine. This is not the first such incident down to human failure. We just must not waste any so perhaps the checking protocols needs to be reviewed again.

Dido Harding, head of Track and Trace, told MPs today that up to 20,000 people per day are not fully complying with instructions to self-isolate and quarantine. It is no wonder our numbers of cases are only very slowly dropping. The poor compliance is costing many lives and stopping schools from opening safely.

Following the good news about the vaccine preventing the transmissibility it was inevitable that pressure would be back trying to get schools open again. We know that Boris is very keen but he recognises the number of cases remain far too high to do it safely. More attention should be given to the 20,000 who cannot follow the rules for isolation. Work urgently needs to be done to understand just why so many are happy to flaunt the rules and run big house parties. If we reopen schools we need also to be able to keep them open.

Over 71 million Covid tests have now been done since they began, with 605,382 done yesterday. Of yesterday’s tests 19,202 were found to be positive, this figure continues to fall, 25.1% in the last 7 days and the rate has fallen to 250.3 per 100k of the population.

There were 32,851 in hospital with Covid 19 on 1st February. 2,651 were admitted in the 24 hours yesterday and 3,638 were still on a ventilator yesterday. These figures, although falling are far too slow. Over 20,000 admissions were needed in the last week. It will be some months yet before vaccines really take over the prevention of the disease. For the time being it has to be the lockdown. Twenty thousand refusing to follow the rules makes this all last so much longer, with still many more deaths before we get through this. Why is this message not getting through? What else can be done? Do we lock up the ones who do not want to listen, fines do not seem to be effective even when quite substantial. Please share your ideas.

Passing the 10 million mark with vaccines is an achievement Boris was rightly proud of tonight , that is 15% of the population now. In the USA the CDC have now mandated the wearing of masks in all public places and transport systems. They have specified that they must be properly worn. America has a lot of catching up to do after a poor start. The figures are all moving in the right direction but it is too slow. Tightening our compliance with the rules and rolling out the vaccine are the only things we can do. Share your thoughts about this. Make sure you are not bending or breaking the rules like the 20,000 mentioned today. Staying apart is the key thing to remember. If you have no contact with others your chances of catching it are very small.

Make sure you get the vaccine when called. Do not believe those who claim them harmful or ineffective. 10 million of us cannot be wrong.

Play your Part, Stay Apart and Stay Safe.

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