Friday Five

Arthritis drug accelerating Covid-19 recovery, CDC double masking recommendation and vaccine passports – This Week’s Friday Five

Arthritis drug helping to save lives and speed recovery from Covid-19, trial shows

Arthritis drug, Tocilizumab, has been shown to help save lives and accelerate recovery in patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19, an extensive UK trial has confirmed.

The Recovery trial run by Oxford university studied 4,000 people who needed oxygen therapy but were not in intensive care. Tocilizumab was shown to cut mortality risk by 15%, while reducing the need for ventilation and helping to shorten the time spent in hospital.

“This is a very significant step forward,” said Professor Martin Landray, joint chief investigator. “The benefits of Tocilizumab come on top of those from dexamethasone, so we now have two therapies that together will cut your chance of dying from Covid in hospital by between a third and a half.”

Read the full story in FT.com.

AstraZeneca says vaccine against new Covid variants may take six months

AstraZeneca believes that it could take anywhere between six and nine months to produce Covid-19 vaccines that are effective against new variants of the coronavirus and begin administering them to the public.

The comments from the pharmaceutical group, which developed its jab in partnership with Oxford university, come as the world is locked in a race between vaccine development and new viral variants.

The company’s vaccine remains effective against the original virus and at least one variant, first discovered in Kent, England. But preliminary findings in a small-scale trial prompted South Africa to limit its use while it ascertains its efficacy against the variant that emerged there.

Read the full story in The Guardian.

CDC recommends double masking to reduce Covid-19 exposure

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask can help significantly reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19, as can improving a mask’s fit.

CDC researchers said they explored the effectiveness of different masking approaches through laboratory experiments in which they placed two artificial heads 6 feet from one another and measured how many coronavirus-sized particles exhaled by one were inhaled by the other.

The researchers found that wearing just one mask, either surgical or cloth, blocked a little over 40% of the particles from simulated breathing by an unmasked head. But a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask blocked about 80% of particles from an unmasked head.

Read the full story in CNBC.

Ministers set to discuss ‘vaccine passports’

Today, ministers are set to discuss the development of “vaccine passports” for travel, after health secretary, Matt Hancock, urged the public to be “patient” about making holiday plans.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK government, like most nations, wants to open up international travel in a responsible safe and fair manner and we continue to be guided by the science. We want to ensure there is an internationally recognised approach to enable travel and are working closely with international partners to do so.”

If the proposal gets the go-ahead, several Whitehall departments are expected to be involved in drawing up the system, which would form the UK’s contribution to what could become a global approach to proving who has been vaccinated.

Read the full story in The Guardian.


Quote of the week

On Thursday, Matt Hancock unveiled plans for a significant reorganisation of the health service that he said would bring better integration and accountability and less bureaucracy. Hancock discussed how the pandemic had further demonstrated the need for change, both in better connecting health and social care, and also in population-wide preventative health measures.

When addressing the Commons, Matt Hancock said: “We have listened, and these changes reflect what the health and care family have been asking for”.

Read the full story in The Guardian.