Friday Five

Redeployment of unvaccinated healthcare workers, ‘superhuman’ immunity, fall in STI levels and rise in young covid deaths – this week’s Friday Five

Unvaccinated health and care sector workers in England could be redeployed

A UK government minister has suggested that unvaccinated health and care sector workers in England could be moved to back-office roles.

This comes as part of a six-week consultation process on plans to mandate Covid-19 and flu vaccinations which will take views on whether vaccine requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers. The government have previously said all care home staff in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 from 11 November unless medically exempt.

Helen Whately, the minister for care, said the government has been working with care homes and other settings to see if workers who refused the vaccine could be redeployed: “You can look at whether there are alternative ways somebody could be deployed, for instance, in a role that doesn’t involve frontline work, or doesn’t involve being physically in the same setting as the patient – whether it’s, for instance, working on 111, something like that.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Vaccination after Covid infection gives some people ‘superhuman’ immunity, study finds

Researchers have said that some people who have caught Covid-19 and are later vaccinated develop an ‘impressively potent’ immunity to Covid-19.

According to a study pre-print published last month, the antibodies generated by these individuals are so powerful that they neutralise all six variants of concern as well as other coronaviruses. The phenomenon is known by different names in the scientific community, including “superhuman immunity” and “hybrid immunity”.

Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at Rockefeller University, who led the research said: “Based on all these findings, it looks like the immune system is eventually going to have the edge over this virus… And if we’re lucky, SARS-CoV-2 will eventually fall into that category of viruses that gives us only a mild cold”

Read the full story in The Independent.

Sexually transmitted infections fall during the pandemic

Data has revealed that cases of newly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections are down by a third in England. Experts have put this drop in figures down to behaviour changes during the pandemic but also because fewer tests have been done.

Nearly 318,000 STIs were recorded in 2020 compared with 467,096 in 2019, the latest figures show. Infections requiring an in-person assessment, such as genital warts or herpes, saw a greater drop in diagnoses but cases of chlamydia and gonorrhoea – which can be diagnosed with self-sampling kits – were also down.

Debbie Laycock, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the drop in new cases was good news but rates could creep up again: “Sexually transmitted infections are still circulating… That means it’s as important as ever to regularly test for STIs if you’re having sex and for everyone to know that sexual health services are open for business – both face-to-face and online.”

Read the full story in the BBC.

Young Covid deaths rise during the third wave

People dying from Covid-19 during the third wave have been “strikingly younger” than those dying earlier in the pandemic, an expert said yesterday. Since early June 18 per cent of death certificates mentioning Covid-19 have been from under-60s. During the first two waves, this figure was 7 per cent.

Over-80s still account for the greatest proportion of deaths, at 44.1 per cent, but this is much lower than the 59.6 per cent before June 4. Weekly figures from the Office for National Statistics showed an 18 per cent increase in Covid-19 deaths in the week ending August 27. The number of deaths, while well below the level seen at the peak of the second wave, are at their highest since late March.

Professor Sheila Bird, former leader of the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit, said: “Due largely to vaccination and variant, the age distribution is strikingly younger for the 3,926 Covid-mention deaths in England and Wales thus far in wave three versus Covid-mention deaths which occurred earlier in the pandemic.”

Read the full story in The Times.


Quote of the week

After it emerged that the NHS is hiring a swathe of new executives earning as much as £270,000 the care minister, Helen Whately, gave a defence:

“We do want to have really top people to have the responsibility for driving these reforms…I don’t want to see NHS managers be paid at an unacceptable level, we want as much of the funding as possible to go to the frontline… I am not going to set out whether the NHS should or shouldn’t be doing this… they are going to be taking on great responsibility. I do want them to be really helping us retain and recruit nurses – that will be an important part of their job.”

Find out more from The Telegraph.