Friday Five

No snogging under the mistletoe, new Covid antibody treatment, trigger for AstraZeneca blood-clots and Omicron – this week’s Friday Five

Government minister says avoid ‘snogging under the mistletoe’ this Christmas

According to a government minister, Britons should avoid “snogging under the mistletoe” this Christmas. The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, told ITV’s Peston programme that “we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us”, adding: “For what it’s worth, I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe.”

She added: “You don’t need to do things like that. But I think we should all be trying to enjoy the Christmas ahead of us, and that’s why we’re working so hard to get the deployment of as many vaccines as possible.” Coffey said kissing should be avoided with “people you don’t already know”.

The science minister, George Freeman, also told people to “exercise some common sense” about who they kissed and where, adding to LBC that it was “up to all of us” to help control the spread of the Omicron variant and avoid the potential need for tougher curbs to tackle it.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Sotrovimab, an antibody treatment for Covid, approved in the UK

The UK has approved another antibody treatment for people with Covid that cuts the risk of severe illness. The drug is called sotrovimab, and scientists say preliminary checks suggest it should work well even against new variants such as Omicron. This is the second drug of its kind – a monoclonal antibody treatment – that UK regulators have approved.

The drug, given in a drip into a vein, binds to the virus to stop it from entering our cells. In a clinical trial, a single dose reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79% in high-risk adults. GSK, the drug company say they have run some early tests in the lab to see how the drug fares against the heavily mutated Covid variant Omicron.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “This is yet another therapeutic that has been shown to be effective at protecting those most vulnerable to Covid-19, and signals another significant step forward in our fight against this devastating disease.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Scientists find possible trigger for AstraZeneca jab blood clots

A team of researchers from Cardiff and the US believe they may have found the trigger behind the extremely rare blood clot complications stemming from the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine. The reaction can be traced to the way the adenovirus used by the vaccine to shuttle the coronavirus’s genetic material into cells binds with a specific protein in the blood, known as platelet factor 4 (PF4).

Researchers think this may spark a chain reaction in the immune system that can culminate in the development of blood clots – a condition known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

Prof Alan Parker, from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: “VITT only happens in extremely rare cases because a chain of complex events needs to take place to trigger this ultra-rare side effect… Our data confirms PF4 can bind to adenoviruses, an important step in unravelling the mechanism underlying VITT. Establishing a mechanism could help to prevent and treat this disorder…We hope our findings can be used to better understand the rare side effects of these new vaccines and potentially to design new and improved vaccines to turn the tide on this global pandemic.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

 

Vaccine task force head says Omicron may be ‘storm in a teacup’

Omicron could turn out to be a “storm in a teacup” that has come and gone in a fortnight, according to the former head of the government’s vaccine task force.

Clive Dix said that if the new variant was more infectious than Delta but caused less severe symptoms, it might be sensible to relax restrictions in the long term to allow Omicron to become dominant. However, he emphasised that the government was right to be cautious until more was known.

He said he was “pretty calm and not really worried” about the new variant. “I think everything will calm down soon, it won’t be a big story in a few weeks time… If we look at all the facts that we know so far, none of them are heading in the direction of being a super concern. Yes, it looks like it possibly transmits very easily, maybe even more easily than the Delta variant. But we’re not seeing serious disease yet and we’re not seeing death… “The existing vaccines may be slightly less effective at preventing transmission but I’d be very surprised if Omicron escapes the vaccines’ cellular immune response and I’d be very surprised if this virus is going to cause more serious illness or death.”

Read the full story in The Times.


Quote of the week

Downing Street have said that people should not cancel Christmas parties because of Omicron. A spokesperson from Number 10 said:

“The prime minister has been very clear on this. On Christmas parties, we don’t want people to cancel such events. There is no government guidance to that end. It is right that post step 4 (of the road map out of lockdown), we returned to the position where people can use their individual judgment, but there is certainly no government guidance to that end, and the prime minister has been very clear.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.