February 5 2021

The regular statistical data published by the Government continues to show slow but steady progress in all parameters.

Perhaps the most significant figure today is the Reproduction number R. SAGE believe the average R rate around the country is 0.7 to 1.0. If you remember once the R number is below 1.0 the pandemic begins to shrink. Today figures mean that if 10 people have Covid they will give it to between 7 and 10 people. So the numbers with the disease will fall.

783,851 Covid 19 tests were done in the last 24 hours which represents an ongoing rise of 7.6% on the 7 day rolling average. As far as positive tests are concerned only 19,114 were reported yesterday, a drop of 26.5% of the 7 day rolling average. The positive case rate continues to fall and is now 240.2/100k of the population.

Deaths reported were 1,014, a slight rise in the absolute number compared with yesterday but it represents a 17.8% fall in the last 7 days. The death rate has fallen back to 10.1 per 100k. These figures remain high, they are the last parameter to fall demonstrating progress in the right direction. It shows just how critical following lockdown rules still are.

Immunisation data continues to impress with almost 11 million now having had a first jab and over half a million had a second injection.

We are well on course now to immunise the top 4 bands before the 15th February and today the next target of getting everyone over 50 immunised by May 6th has been announced. May the 6th is an important date as it is the date planned for the local elections in England.

Today the UK has rubber stamped a deal for 50 million doses of a “tweaked” vaccine made by CureVac, a German Company. The UK seeks to build our armaments still further against any possible emerging threats from variants, It will keep us one step ahead of the game. The CureVac vaccine is based on messenger RNA in the same way the Pfizer vaccine is. Prof. Johnathan Van Tam said today this is the best possible protection. The EU have also pre-ordered 505 million doses.

In another key study published today the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine was shown to be just as highly effective on the Kent and South African variant as it is for the original Covid 19 virus.

As we gain both confidence in and experience with the Covid vaccines more and more trials and studies are coming along to see if by varying the established protocols or mixing different vaccines together in one injection or making the second dose different to the first dose makes it any better. There is increasing evidence that people who have had the infection before being immunised are producing a very much greater antibody response, with very high titres. We do not yet have an easy way to measure the T cell responses.

There are no dramatic responses yet and studies will have to be peer reviewed but it seems that if for some reason there is a vaccine supply problem and a second one is used , thus not sticking to the original protocol it will not affect the efficacy of the vaccines and in some cases may enhance the response still further.

The safety profile of all the approved vaccines remains extremely high. If different combinations or timings can be shown to significantly improve the already very high levels of protection then a change to the existing regime could ensue. There is a lot of work still to do on annual boosters with every chance they will be like the annual flu vaccine with different components every year.

The MHRA which is the Regulatory body that monitor the on going safety of vaccines reports that up to 24th January 2021 6.9 million doses of the OAZ and Pfizer vaccine were given but does not say how many of each were given. From that number 22,820 yellow card reports were made of suspected side effects, This was only 3 yellow cards per thousand jabs. The vast majority were the minor side effects seen with most vaccines, sore arm, flu like aches and pains and a slight fever clearing in 2-3 days. The figures demonstrate how the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. With the more severe side effects including anaphylactoid reactions there were 101 reactions for the Pfizer vaccine and 13 for OAZ. You cannot compare these figures because we do not know the numbers for each vaccine . Everyone fully recovered from any adverse reaction as far as the MHRA are aware.

There were 107 reports of deaths in the weeks or so shortly after being given the Pfizer vaccine and 34 with OAZ. Very careful independent reviews of each death failed to show any link to the vaccine causing the deaths. Many were expected and related to existing underlying conditions in an elderly population, many over 80 years old.

Like several other countries the UK have said they are working on some sort of Covid passport to show the holder has been immunised, so allowing holiday travel. Many countries are desperate to get tourists back and will let them travel if they can prove they are immunised. The UK Government say they will be ready by summer.

Finally, a medical note for those working in the medical field but the rest of you may like to be aware of it. There is a new emerging inflammatory multisystem disease in children which has been named PIMS. About 12-15 cases a day are being found in the UK. So it is still extremely rare. It is similar to another rare disease in children known as Kawasaki disease. I saw just two cases in a long career. Symptoms of PIMs include a high fever, greater than 38C, stomach ache, diarrhoea, sore throat, a fine widespread macular rash, as well as swollen fingers and toes. There is a risk of ongoing cardiac complications. Amongst the present cases 75% of the children are from the BAME community.

As I said no reason to be unduly worried, its very rare but think of it when faced with a child with symptoms like these.

Progress is slow but steady, there can be no relaxation, you can begin to think about a holiday in the summer with an immunity passport. Children will not have been immunised and nothing has been said about whether they will be able to travel, you may well not be able to take them.

Do not miss your vaccine slot, if you did or if you said no and now would like one, I have shown you how safe they are! Just contact them and ask to be restored to the list, Stay at home still stay apart and Stay safe

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