Friday Five

Regional disparity in Covid death rate, new health secretary and third booster vaccine – this week’s Friday 5

‘Jaw-dropping’ regional disparities in Covid death rates across UK

A report by Sir Michael Marmot has revealed that the pandemic death rate in Greater Manchester was 25% higher than the nation’s average and that in the North West of England, four months had been wiped off life expectancy.

The regional variation in the pandemic’s impact is thought to be linked to poverty and bad working/living conditions since nearly half of Manchester’s neighbourhoods are in the poorest 10% nationally.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said “The pandemic has brutally exposed just how unequal England actually is. People have lived parallel lives over the last 18 months”. “People in low-paid, insecure work have often had little choice in their level of exposure to Covid; and the risk of getting it and bringing it back home to those they live with”.

Read the full story in the Manchester Evening News

Cambridge face masks found to be 100% effective at cutting covid transmission in hospital wards

A hospital infection study has revealed that use of the FFP3 face mask may cut hospital staff covid infections by 100 per cent.

Managers at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge upgraded to the FFP3 mask on all covid wards during the second wave of the pandemic which led to a significant decrease of exposure on Covid-19 wards. A study by the University of Cambridge has also speculated that these FFP3 respirators may have cut ward-based infection to zero.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a co-author of the study, highlighted the importance of these findings in a post-vaccination era saying that “whilst vaccines will protect the healthy against severe disease in the community the Delta variant raises the possibility of severe illness in hospital settings where there are vulnerable patients”.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

New health secretary Sajid Javid to prioritise a speedy ‘return to normal’ and ‘the three S’s’

The new health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, has outlined his priorities in his new role suggesting he will undertake a different approach to his predecessor, Matt Hancock.

In his first appearance in the Commons as health secretary, Javid boldly confirmed the full reopening on 19 July making clear that a speedy return to ‘normal’ would be top on his list. Alongside this pledge, he has outlined what he calls ‘the three S’s’ as his other main concerns – social care, staffing and safety. This will be a contrast to Hancock’s approach which saw a heavy impetus on the use of technology.

Javid’s confidence on a rapid return to normal has been met with some scepticism as it is thought he is unlikely to ignore scientific evidence, should it suggest a further delay to the easing of restrictions, because of the risk it would pose of alienating top scientific advisors, or NHS workers.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Third booster dose of vaccine for those 50 and over in autumn

A Covid vaccine booster programme has been given the green light in the UK ahead of winter which is expected to bring a bigger flu season than average.  Anyone who qualifies for a flu jab will be offered this third vaccine alongside all adults over the age of 50.

Whilst it is clear that covid vaccinations protect against serious illness for at least six-months, a lack of data means that scientists are unsure how long immunity lasts.  The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) therefore advise a safety-first approach to ensure that those most at risk are securely protected over winter.

The deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam commented ”We want to be on the front foot for Covid-19 booster vaccination to keep the probability of loss of vaccine protection, due to waning immunity or variants, as low as possible – especially over the coming autumn and winter.”

Read the full story in the BBC.


Quote of the week

A hospital in London has issued an apology and promised to review restrictions on visiting restrictions after it prevented parents from seeing their dying son in his final weeks.

A spokesperson from the hospital said:

“It has been a challenge to strike this balance during the pandemic but we believe our staff have always tried their best in very difficult circumstances and we are always looking at how we can improve further…We are reviewing how we implement national visiting guidance during the pandemic and listening to what our patients and their families tell us about the impact it has on their care”

Find out more from the BBC.