Friday Five

Covid-19 latest: Vaccine milestone, Brazil variant and Oxford vaccine for over-80s – This Week’s Friday Five

#COVID19 VACCINE UPDATE: Daily figures on the number of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK. As of 4 March, 20,982,571 people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Visit the @PHE_uk dashboard for more info:

More than 20 million in the UK have had the first coronavirus vaccine

The government has announced that more than 20 million people in the UK have had the coronavirus vaccine, as of the end of February.

Official data showed that 20,089,551 people have now received their first dose with 796,132 having a second dose. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “a magnificent achievement for the country”.

Chris Hopson, Head of NHS Providers, cautioned that Britain still has “a long way to go”. This week, people aged 60-63, will be invited to book their vaccine. Those aged 50 to 60 should follow soon, aiming to meet the government’s 15 April target of offering a first dose to all over-50s, carers and people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions.

Read the full story in the BBC.

Concern over Brazil variant in the UK

Six cases of a coronavirus variant originating in Brazil have been detected in the UK. One of the six people who tested positive is yet to be identified.

The variant, named P1, has been found to be 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible compared to the original strain, following a research study from Manaus, Brazil where the new strain was first detected. The research also showed that for people who had previously had Covid-19, between 25% and 61% were at risk of being infected again.

However, scientists have warned against applying the findings to the current low number of cases in the UK. Sharon Peacock, executive director and chair of the Covid-19 Genomics UK, said that “at the present time I don’t believe there’s any threat to our vaccination strategy, or likely effectiveness.”

Read the full story in ITV news.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine cuts hospital admissions for over-80s

Further evidence has shown that one dose of the Covid vaccine does protect older people against severe disease.

A study, based at the University of Bristol, found that both the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines prevent 80% of Covid hospital admissions for people over the age of 80. It supports findings from other studies. Research from Public Health England found that the vaccine reduced symptomatic infection in over-80s by 57% for the Pfizer vaccine and 63% for the Oxford AstraZeneca.

According to Professor Adam Finn, who led the Bristol study, the study is particularly crucial for European countries as older age groups in the UK have already been vaccinated. He said “there are lots of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine available in European countries and they are not being given to people over the age of 65 – in some countries over the age of 55 – for lack of data. Well here are the data… showing that you can save lives in elderly people by giving them a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and those countries need to get on and start doing that as fast as possible.”

Read the full story in the BBC.

Changes to coronavirus vaccines will be fast-tracked safely

Covid vaccines for new variants can be quickly adapted and will not require the full approval process.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said that manufacturers will need to prove that new vaccines trigger an immune response but that longer clinical trials will not be needed.

This approach is similar to fast-track processes used for updating annual flu vaccines. The MHRA has said that this would “significantly reduce” time needed to develop vaccines in response to future variants that may be resistant to current vaccines. Dr Christian Schneider, chief scientific officer at the MHRA, said “our priority is to get effective vaccines to the public in as short a time as possible, without compromising on safety”.

Read the full story in the Guardian.


Quote of the week

Following a 9% increase in coronavirus cases across Europe this week, the WHO has highlighted the need to control the infection.

“We are seeing a resurgence in central and eastern Europe. New cases are also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high….Over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in this situation”, says Dr Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO Europe.

Read the full story at Yahoo.