Pyser Testing

Vaccine

Plans for “Booster” Covid Vaccine Roll-Out Coming Within Weeks

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that plans for a “booster” Covid vaccine roll-out in the autumn will be set out in the coming weeks. BBC News has the story.

The Health Secretary said ministers were waiting for results from trials of different combinations of vaccines.

It comes after doctors and NHS trusts said planning for a booster rollout must start now as it will involve bigger challenges. 

They said many questions needed answering, including how long immunity from the original Covid jab lasts.

The issue of whether children will be vaccinated also still remains, health leaders said.

“We are currently trialling which combinations of jabs are the most effective,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast. 

“In the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what’s the most effective combinations to have… then we’ll set out all the details for the booster programme for the autumn.”

Among the ongoing trials is the U.K.’s Cov-Boost trial, which is testing different combinations of third doses across England. 

A senior Government source said the U.K. would also benefit from new vaccines from Novavax and Valneva, which are awaiting approval from the U.K.’s medicines regulator. 

So far, nearly 60% of U.K. adults have had two jabs of the vaccine, meaning they are fully vaccinated, and more than four in five adults have had their first dose.

People have been rushing to get their vaccines in recent days, with more than one million jabs booked on Friday and Saturday in England after vaccinations opened to all over-18s.

Worth reading in full.

Ministers Dithering Over Decision on Whether to Vaccinate Children against Covid

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has “reached some conclusions” on whether to recommend the vaccination children against Covid, with previous reports suggesting that it will advise against this move until there is more safety data. But while JCVI members say they are “perplexed” by the Government stalling on this matter, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman says ministers are waiting for a “formal recommendation” before moving any further. The Telegraph has more.

Senior JCVI members have previously publicly questioned the ethics of vaccinating a population that faces only a tiny risk of serious illness from Covid.

However, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, last week suggested the Government was sympathetic to the idea when he said there was a “wider question” about disruption to schooling.

On Sunday night, a source said: “It is about reconciling the view of the Committee – which of course is evolving over time anyway – and what the politicians are minded to do. I guess that process is taking longer than usual.”

JCVI members were “perplexed” by the delay, the source added, saying: “We’ve deliberated and we’ve reached some conclusions, but the position we’re in is that we’re waiting for a joint communique from DHSC, from Matt Hancock and the whole team.”

On Sunday night, the Department of Health denied that ministers had yet received JCVI’s advice…

JCVI members – most of whom are independent scientists who offer their expertise to the committee – are known to be seeking the assurance of real-world safety data from mass roll-outs in other countries…

A key issue of concern is understanding whether mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer jab increase the risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said there have been more than 300 cases reported among the millions of teens and young adults who have received an mRNA vaccine, but that in the “vast majority” of cases the inflammation went away…

A DHSC spokesman said: “Following a robust review of the evidence, the MHRA concluded the Pfizer Covid vaccine meets the high standards of safety, effectiveness and quality required and has authorised its use for people aged 12 and above.

“Ministers have not received JCVI advice and no decisions have been made on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered Covid vaccines. The Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI and has asked for its formal recommendation. We will update in due course.”

Worth reading in full.

“Great Hope” We Could Unlock on July 5th, Says Vaccine Expert – But Will Boris Follow the Data?

When delaying the easing of lockdown restrictions in England last Monday, the Prime Minister signalled that the extension was far more likely to last for four weeks (at least) than two. But Brendan Wren, Professor of Vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the data shows there is “great hope” that “Freedom Day” could occur on July 5th rather than a fortnight later.

He pins this hope to the successful vaccine roll-out, noting also that mass testing probably gives a false impression of the number of actual Covid carriers in the country – and, of course, of the number of people in hospital because of the virus. Sky News has more.

[Professor] Wren… said that having more than 81% of the adult population with a first coronavirus jab, and 59% with both doses is “very encouraging”.

Asked whether the success of the vaccine programme means England will not need to wait until July 19th to fully open up, he said: “We’d still need to be vigilant – but vigilance and vaccination are the two words.

“So, I think if the numbers continue to be promising then I think there’s great hope we could open up on July 5th.” …

Official figures show the U.K. has recorded more than 10,000 daily Covid cases for three consecutive days.

But Professor Wren explained that the rise in cases seems to be “flattening off”, saying: “If you are testing and tracing more, then you are going to find more cases… but if you look at the population as a general cross-section, then the actual numbers proportion-wise might be less.”

The expert said the number of people in hospital with Covid and “certainly the severe cases” have “not crept up in line” with the number of infections.

“There’s clear evidence here that the vaccinations certainly in the older populations are working,” he added.

“Although the number of cases may increase, the number of hospitalisations, or deaths, or expected deaths, is not increasing in line with the previous waves.”

And asked whether the U.K. is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, Professor Wren said: “I don’t think particularly. We expected that there would be an increase as we gradually opened up but I wouldn’t call this a third wave.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Others, including those who are closer to the Government, are more pessimistic. SAGE member Professor Calum Semple says we should expect a fourth wave in the winter due to the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Stop Press 2: A reader spotted a good letter in the Sunday Telegraph.

SIR – What is going on?

On June 23 last year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the previous week was 59, with 353 hospital admissions. On that day the Government announced that restrictions on our freedoms would be eased on July 4.

This year the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the first week of June was seven, with 144 hospital admissions.

In contrast to last year, those at high risk have been vaccinated. Yet at the beginning of the week, the Government announced its intention to continue restricting our freedom for at least another five weeks.

Where is the logic? Will restrictions ever end? This disease is endemic. We should stop testing asymptomatic people, accept that “zero Covid” is not achievable and get on with our lives.

Dr Geoffrey Maidment
Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire

Thousands of Women Suffering Period Problems Following Covid Vaccination

Britain’s medicines regulator has received reports from almost 4,000 women, mostly aged between 30 and 49, who have suffered period problems after taking a Covid vaccine. Reports were gathered until the middle of May – before the vaccine rollout opened for the whole adult population – so more up-to-date figures could show a much lower age range for period problems. The Sunday Times has the story.

Official data, obtained by the Sunday Times, show that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 2,734 reports of period problems linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, 1,158 related to the Pfizer jab, and 66 linked to the Moderna vaccine up to May 17th.

The issue, typically involving “heavier than usual” bleeding, could have affected many more women who would not have thought to report their experience. The majority of issues were reported in women aged between 30 and 49.

Asked why the problems had not been added to the official list of possible side effects of the Covid vaccines, the MHRA said a review with experts had found that there was no need to do so. The “current evidence” did not suggest an “increased risk” of period problems after the jab, it said, but it had published information on reports of menstrual disorders in its weekly report on adverse reactions.

Victoria Male, a Reproductive Immunologist at Imperial College London, said more women were likely to have been affected than the number of case reports. “It’s definitely true that not everyone will be reporting any menstrual changes they have noticed to Yellow Card [the MHRA’s scheme for people to report suspected side effects] simply because not everyone knows that it exists and that they can file a report,” she said.

Although a clear link between the Covid jab and menstrual disorders had not been established, “lots of people have contacted me to tell me about changes that they have noticed in their periods following vaccination”, Male said. “The kinds of things they are telling me about, mostly periods that are heavier or later than usual, are very similar to the reports we are seeing in Yellow Card.”

Angharad Planells, 34, from Cheltenham, said her period had been 11 days late after her second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “My whole life I’ve been pretty regular and I track my period on an app. It was super late,” she said. “When it did start, it was one of – if not the – most painful periods I’ve ever had, to the point where I felt a bit nauseous.”

Planells, who reported the suspected adverse reaction to the MHRA, added: “I would still have the vaccine again. I have had family members die from Covid. It’s just the lack of information out there.”

Worth reading in full.

Government Considering Exempting Fully-Vaccinated Brits From Quarantine Rules after Contact with Covid Carriers

The gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated Brits is set to grow even further under new plans to exempt people who have received both doses of a vaccine from having to self-isolate for 10 days after coming into contact with Covid carriers. Those who are exempt will have to abide instead by a strict testing regime and will still have to isolate if a test result comes out positive.

The Health Secretary is said to be “very keen” on this approach. All that is needed, according to reports, is for Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, to give his seal of approval. The MailOnline has more.

Britons who have received both jabs would be exempt from self-isolation for a 24-hour period after each negative test result. 

Tests would be required every morning for one week if a person is told by Test and Trace that they have been near someone with the infection.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to be “very keen” on the new approach which would help to lift coronavirus restrictions.

But the proposal can only go ahead after Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, is content with the outcome of a study of 40,000 people…

Initial results from the study are predicted to come in next month and the research is set to finish by the end of this summer. 

A Whitehall source told the Times: “The vaccines are extremely effective and we want to keep people safe whilst minimising interruption to their lives. 

“So of course it is an attractive option if shown to be safe.”

It follows 62,000 people having to self-isolate last week after coming into contact with Covid carriers. 

Another source added: “It’s obviously very appealing if it’s safe so we need to show that before we bring it in.

“Matt is very keen on it and there is a strong appetite in some corners.”

Worth reading in full.

NHS App Gains 2.7 Million Users Following Addition of Vaccine Passport

Almost three million people have signed up to the NHS app since the addition of the “NHS Covid Pass” section, showing a user’s vaccine status, as well as recent test results. The Guardian has the story.

The app, separate from the NHS Covid app, began enabling people to show proof that they had received the vaccine from May 17th, in order to travel internationally or attend sporting events, such as Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches. The app already had other functions in order to access medical services, such as booking GP appointments.

Between May 17th and June 14th, almost five million distinct users logged on to the app, with the Department of Health and Social Care stating that more than six million users had been reached in total.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Technology undoubtedly plays a huge role in how we deliver healthcare now and in the future and it is great to see so many people downloading, using and benefiting from the NHS app.

“It is vital we embrace the momentum we have built-in using technology and innovation in the health and care sector over the last year as we look beyond the pandemic to improve treatment, care and the experiences of patients.”

While the Gov.uk website mentions only that the app allows users to show their vaccine status “if required for international travel”, the Chief Executive of NHSX (the digital arm of the health service) says: “It has been good to see it used to open up sporting events, facilitate travel, and encourage the use of NHS services online.” Last month, a senior Whitehall figure said it is “almost certain” that vaccine passports will be required in domestic settings, such as for events of more than 1,000 people.

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

E.U. Fails in Court Ruling to Secure 120 Million Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine – But Bloc Still Claims Victory

The European Union has failed in a legal attempt to obtain 120 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine by the end of this month. Despite this, the President of the European Commission has claimed victory for the bloc, saying that the ruling demonstrates the drug maker’s failure to meet its commitments. Sky News has the story.

The two sides have had a rocky relationship over the past few months, with the E.U. accusing the vaccine maker of not producing supplies fast enough.

AstraZeneca was contracted to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the bloc by the end of June, but it had to revise down its target to 100 million doses due to production problems.

A Brussels court rejected an E.U. request for at least 120 million vaccine doses by the end of this month – something the company has claimed as a win.

Instead, the drug maker said the judge ruled it should deliver only 80.2 million doses by September 27th.

AstraZeneca said it would “substantially exceed” that amount by the end of this month and that the court backed its assertion that the European Commission “has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contracting parties”.

However, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the ruling supported the E.U.’s view that AstraZeneca had failed to meet its commitments.

“It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this,” she said.

“This shows that our European vaccination campaign not only delivers for our citizens day by day. It also demonstrates that it was founded on a sound legal basis.” …

AstraZeneca has now been told by the court to deliver 15 million doses by July 26th, another 20 million by August 23rd, and a further 15 million by September 27th.

If the company misses these deadlines it will face a penalty of €10 (£8.57) per dose not delivered, the European Commission said.

Worth reading in full.

Those Who Have Had AstraZeneca Vaccine – or No Vaccine at All – Banned From Upcoming Bruce Springsteen Show

Broadway is reopening in New York, but you’ll need to have received a vaccine approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to go to a show. Bruce Springsteen will shortly be opening in a one-man show on Broadway, but audience members will be forced to show proof of vaccination to attend – and the AstraZeneca vaccine won’t count! The Telegraph has the story.

The show, billed as “an intimate night with Bruce, his guitar, a piano, and his stories” will run five nights a week at the St James theatre.

“At the direction of New York State, Springsteen on Broadway and the St James Theatre will only be accepting proof of FDA-approved Covid vaccines,” the website says.

Anyone who has received another jab, or is unwilling or unable to have a vaccine will not be allowed to attend.

The news has been met with disappointment just hours north, across the Canadian border, where more than 1.7 million people have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Only those who have had a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be allowed to go to the theatre.

Worth reading in full.

The nyc.com website says young children will be exempt from the vaccine rule, but no one else.

The only exception to the above will be for children under the age of 16, who must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult and also must provide proof of at least one of the following:

~ negative antigen Covid test taken within six hours of the performance start time, or

~ negative PCR Covid test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time.

No Mandatory Vaccination for Care Home Staff in Wales

Wales will not be copying England in making Covid vaccination mandatory for care home staff. First Minister Mark Drakeford says that staff in positions of care should take the vaccine, but “there is a very big step taken when you move into compulsion”. This decision is likely to have been swayed by the fact that such a high proportion of care workers have already been vaccinated anyway. WalesOnline has the story.

In Wales the take-up of the vaccine has been extremely high, resulting in as many as 98% of care home residents and 92.3% of care home workers having had their first dose. The percentage when it comes to both doses is equally encouraging – 93.7% for care home residents and 85.7% for care home staff.

However, there are still 2,960 care home employees and 295 care home residents who are yet to receive their first dose – despite being in the top priority groups when the roll-out was announced last December.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government confirmed there were no plans to make Covid jabs mandatory for care home staff at this point. She said: “Protecting our most vulnerable people in care homes is at the heart of our response to the pandemic and vaccine strategy. 

“While Covid vaccination rates are at such high levels in this group – and in other priority groups and age groups – in Wales we do not see the need at this time to introduce compulsory measures.

“We will continue to work with the sector to promote the importance of vaccination and support any care workers who have not yet been vaccinated to get a vaccine.”

The country has, however, followed England’s lead in delaying the easing of lockdown restrictions by four weeks because “the Delta variant has entered Wales and quickly spread throughout the country”. The First Minister is quoted in Sky News.

There is sustained and accelerating transmission, not just in north and southeast Wales but in all parts of Wales.

It is now the most dominant variant in new cases in Wales. We are once again facing a serious public health situation.

The WalesOnline report is worth reading in full.

Covid Vaccination Open to All over-18s in England

All English adults are now able to book a Covid vaccination as the number of over-18s who have been vaccinated nears 45 million (over 80%) – yet still we wait. Reuters has the story.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pushed back the full re-opening of England from lockdown until July 19th because of a rise in cases, but also accelerated his vaccination plans, pledging to give every adult a first dose by the same date. 

“Offering all adults a jab less than 200 days after the programme launched is one of our country’s greatest collective achievements, saving over 14,000 lives so far,” he said, referring to Public Health England estimates of the impact of the vaccine roll-out.

Britain has given a first dose of a Covid vaccine to more than 42 million people, almost 80% of adults, while well over a half have received both shots.

Health authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each run their own vaccination campaigns. Wales and Northern Ireland have already made vaccines available to any adult, while Scotland is offering them to anyone over 30.

In Monday’s briefing, the Prime Minister said that current vaccination levels were not enough to justify unlocking the country and that two-thirds of the adult population must be fully vaccinated (a milestone that is expected to be reached by July 19th) if there is to be an effective “wall of immunity”. Even then, he warned that “a proportion of the elderly and vulnerable may still succumb [to the virus] even if they have had two jabs”.

The Reuters report is worth reading in full.