Friday Five

NHS website leak, debate on vaccine patent and highest alcohol deaths – this week’s Friday Five

NHS system leaks vaccine statuses

The NHS is reviewing its Covid vaccine booking system after glitch reveals if people have had the vaccine.

The website is used for people to book vaccine appointments using their NHS number or basic personal details. It navigates to different pages depending on a user’s vaccination status. So, by inputting a person’s name, date of birth and postcode, it’s possible to deduce whether or not they have received a jab. There are concerns that this could affect people’s decisions to take the vaccine.

“This is a seriously shocking failure to protect patients’ medical confidentiality at a time when it could not be more important,” said Silkie Carlo, the director of privacy group Big Brother Watch.

Read the full story in the Guardian.

US support for waving vaccine patent

The US government has supported calls to waive intellectual property protections on Covid vaccines, contrary to its traditional stance on patents.

Removing the patent means that other manufacturers could copy versions of the current vaccines. It is hoped that this could improve access to vaccines in low-income countries. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontierès (MSF) are in favour, saying that “This could provide countries with new options to address the limitations of existing WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules and remove legal uncertainties and barriers that may impede production and supply of COVID-19 medical products in advance”.

However, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) disagreed, instead arguing that a waiver would not solve the issue. They said: “It is likely to lead to disruption; while distracting from addressing the real challenges in scaling up production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally: namely elimination of trade barriers, addressing bottlenecks in supply chains and scarcity of raw materials and ingredients in the supply chain, and a willingness by rich countries to start sharing doses with poor countries.”

Read the full story in the PharmaTimes.

More people dying from flu and pneumonia than Covid

Coronavirus deaths continue to fall, with more people dying from flu and pneumonia than from Covid.

For the week ending April 23, Covid was cited as cause of death for 176 victims while 278 people died from flu and pneumonia.

However, Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said that “things aren’t yet back to normal” highlighting that the number of deaths are still twice as many as last summer.

Read the full story in The Times.

Highest rate of alcohol deaths for 20 years

More people died from alcohol misuse in 2020 than any other year in the last 20 years.

Data from the Office for Nation Statistics showed a 20% increase from 2019, with 7,423 people dying directly by alcohol misuse. The death rate for men living in the most deprived areas compared to wealthiest areas was four times higher.

Charities have warned that the pandemic has led to an increase in drinking at home which could impact rising rates of misuse. Prof Julia Sinclair, who leads the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said this was “a wake-up call” and that “addiction services must be given the resources they need to tackle this public health crisis.”

Read the full story in the BBC.


Quote of the week

A GP practice has criticised how patients use eConsult to contact their doctor, saying there has been a huge increase in demand for more minor symptoms. The practice has now decided to reduce use of eConsult as a result. Here’s what they said:

“Real medicine is nothing like on TV medical dramas where not only complex diagnosis can be made but also that it is fixed before the closing credits.”

Read the full story in the HSJ.