Friday Five

T-cell discovery, compulsory vaccines for NHS staff, high rates of people dying at home and Oxford Ebola jab – this week’s Friday Five

T cell discovery could lead to vaccine which tackles all Covid variants

Researchers this week have said that the next generation of Covid vaccines should aim for the body to respond to specific proteins that are essential for the virus’s earliest stages. It may be possible to destroy Covid at the beginning stages by designing jabs that activate T cells (immune memory cells).

Researchers said the discovery could lead to the creation of a vaccine for all coronaviruses, which would not only protect against COVID and its variants but also against coronaviruses that cause common colds and new emerging animal coronaviruses.

Senior author Professor Mala Maini, of University College London’s (UCL) Division of Infection & Immunity, said: “A vaccine that can induce T cells to recognise and target infected cells expressing these proteins, essential to the virus’s success, would be more effective at eliminating early Sars-CoV-2, and may have the added benefit that they also recognise other coronaviruses that currently infect humans or that could in the future.”

Read the full story in Sky News.

Vaccines to become compulsory for frontline NHS staff in England

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced that it will become compulsory for frontline NHS staff in England to be fully vaccinated against Covid. Javid told MPs that he expects a deadline to be set for the beginning of April to give 103,000 unvaccinated workers time to get both jabs.

The move is set to help protect patients and the NHS as a whole but concerns have been raised that it could lead some workers to leave, adding to healthcare staffing issues. More than 93% of NHS frontline staff have had their first dose and 90% are fully vaccinated which is higher than the general working population, where around 81% have had both doses.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents England’s NHS trusts, said: “We understand why people are vaccine-hesitant. We need to win the argument with them rather than beat them around the head. “The possibility of losing staff was a “real problem” as the NHS runs on fine margins and already relies on staff to work extra shifts, he added.

Read the full story in BBC News.

Highest number of people dying at home in 20 years

As patients continue to struggle to access healthcare, the number of people dying at home is now the highest in 20 years, official statistics suggest.

Between January and June this year 21,471 excess deaths occurred in private homes in England and Wales – almost 2,000 more compared to the same time last year. Coronary heart disease was the main leading cause of death at home, with 1,470 excess deaths during the period. Alzheimer’s deaths at home were 98 per cent above the five-year average with 986 excess deaths, while dementia was 51.3 per cent higher, with 1,086 excess deaths.

Sarah Caul, the head of mortality analysis at ONS, said the figures showed the pandemic “appears to have had an indirect effect” on private home deaths. “This could be because of a combination of factors which may include health service disruption, people choosing to stay away from healthcare settings or terminally ill people staying at home rather than being admitted to other settings for end-of-life care,” she added.

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

 

University of Oxford starts new Ebola vaccine trials

The University of Oxford has launched phase one of trials for a new Ebola vaccine which will be tested on human volunteers. The jab has been designed to tackle the Zaire and Sudan types of Ebola, which together have caused nearly all Ebola outbreaks and deaths worldwide.

There are four species of Ebola virus that have been known to cause disease in humans. Of these, Zaire is the most lethal, causing death in 70% to 90% of cases if left untreated. The new vaccine developed by Oxford scientists is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus that has been genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to replicate in humans.

Teresa Lambe, lead scientific investigator at the University of Oxford, said: “Sporadic Ebola virus outbreaks still occur in affected countries, putting the lives of individuals, especially frontline health workers, at risk. We need more vaccines to tackle this devastating disease.”

Read the full story in BBC News.


Quote of the week

Doctors working at an emergency department in Wales have written letters asking bosses to take action over avoidable deaths due to overcrowding. Following a Freedom of Information Act request, the letters have been released…

“This is causing identifiable patient harm and mortality with deaths occurring in our waiting rooms, ambulances, and out in the community that are attributable in significant part to delays caused by crowding…These catastrophic incidents are currently reviewed in isolation by each site, and we have no evidence or assurance that lessons are being learned over the wider health economy,”

Read the full story in BBC News.