Saturday, 6 February 2021

Anti-Covid-19 Vaccination Diary - The Beginning of the End!

Anti-Covid Vaccination Record Card
To begin at the beginning - we got a phone-call from our doctor's surgery last Wednesday inviting us to have the anti-Coronavirus vaccine. Of course, being fed up with restrictions on our movements for getting on for a year now, and looking forward to a holiday somewhere warm and sunny this year, unlike last year where we made do with a few days in Pembrokeshire, Wales, we jumped at the chance and were duly booked in today at the Village Hall in Clifton Hampden, about 5 mile drive away on the Wallingford road.

In this diary, I'll record our experiences, any side-effect and hopefully, come the day, our second dose and our road to a good level of immunity, how easy it is to do foreign travel, etc.

The purpose to to show that there is nothing to fear and averything to gain from this vaccine!

Saturday, 6th Feb 2021 09:50
On the way out the door we picked up letters off our doormat, from the NHS, inviting us to go online and book our anti-coronavirus vaccinations! "Hmm! I wonder if there has been a mix-up and we don't have an appointment today!"

Arrived 10 minutes early for appointments booked for 12:10. Foggy day, no point in risking being late. Waited in the car until 12:00.

Read the list of questions - do you have symptoms of Covid-19? Have you any allergies? Have you ever had anaphylaxis? Are you pregnant? etc (no to all). Booked in. Gave verbal consent to have the vaccine and handed paperwork 'to give to the nurse'. Great! No mix-up! "Oh! We're having the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine!". Really pleased because we feel this is our local home-grown vaccine!

Stood in line for, maybe 2 minutes with bared left shoulder. Thankfully short as it was a cold day and the Village Hall was very well ventilated!

A pleasant quick chat about who was driving - you're not allowed to drive for 15 minutes! Thinks: "Hmm! That's not normally a problem when I get my annual flu jab! I wonder if that's law or just medical 'advice'! Must look that up sometime!"

"A slight scratch! You'll probably have a sore arm for a few days and might feel a bit headachey and fluey for a day or two!"

A slight scratch, more a pinch, really!

"Remember, no driving for 15 minutes, so you'll be okay after 12:15! Thank you! Bye! Enjoy the rest of your day! Follow the one-way system out of the end door!"

After sitting in the car in the car-park for a few minutes we decided to get our daily exercise and went for a walk around the adjacent allotments, then back to the car and away home, stopping off at a local convenience store to buy a few things on the way!

Feeling fine, and relieved! Now counting the days to a good level of immunity in about 3-4 weeks, apparently.

Arm feels a little bruised but unrestricted movement and no headache of flu symptoms, yet. Not much different to our routine annual flu jab or that shingles vaccine I had a few weeks before Xmas!

20:30 Feeling quite tired now but could be because I was awake early.
Sunday, 7 Feb 2021. 09:00
According to some, supposed to 'feel a bit rough' today, but nothing so far. Arm is a little stiff and still tender to touch. Feels a bit bruised. No restrictions in movement. A slight tickly cough but not anything to worry about.

21 days to go for full anti-body production and supposedly 76% effectiveness. IOW, I'll only have a quarter the probability of catching the virus and if I do, zero probability of needing hospitalization or dying from it according to recent research. News today that AstraZeneca are reporting that a 12-week gap between first and second vaccination gives a better final antibody level than a 3-week gap. Also, preliminary results showing it may be a little less effective against a mild form of the South African varient but prevents serious illness and hospitalisation. AZ will modify the vaccine with the SA mRNA - ready for Autumn. Annual vaccinations may be necessary as virus mutates - like the annual flu jab. Although coronavirus is more stable than the flu virus, we are creating selection pressure to encourge it to mutate to overcome the antibodies the vaccinations are providing and as 'her immunity' builds up. Interesting dynamics of evolution here as we are simultaneously reducing the number of virus particles being produced, so reducing the variability in the population, but increasing the selection pressre favouring those that do have the 'right' mutations. Maybe an idea for a future blog...?

23:15: Maybe a little more tired today than normal. Arm still feeling bruised but no restrictions on movement. All seems well - and why not?
8 Feb, 2021 10:30
Woke up early - slight headache - maybe 'a bit fluey'?. Watched fox running around the close from my window. A sprinkle of snow - the 'Beast from the East' is back! Back to bed to keep warm. All well. Arm still feels slightly bruised when touched.
9 Feb, 2021 13:00
Feel fine today. Bruising almost gone from my arm. A few light snowflakes blowing in the breeze. May go walkies later.

A lot of alarmist talk in the news about the Oxford AZ vaccine being significanly less effective against the 'South Africa varient' but my understanding is that it is 100% effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths. May need a booster in the Autumn and in subsequent years to keep up with mutations in the virus until we've reduced the incidence of it to very low levels in the world. The 'problem' is that as herd immunity is approaches, there is increasing selection pressure on both transmissibility AND resistance to the anti-bodies the vaccines make. Anual vaccines, like anual flue vaccines will probably become the norm. The good thing is that the mRNA technology means it is relatively easy to modify the vaccine with the latest viral mRNA. The details of manufacture, distribution and delivery won't need to change.
10 Feb, 2021
Arm only slightly bruised feeling when pressed. All well.

A lot of talk in the news today about variants and how effective Oxford/AZ vaccine might be against them. General consensus seems to be that it is a little less efective against South African and Brazilian variants but still 100% effective against serious illness, hospitalisation and death. In fact, still being able to catch a mild dose of it might even result in enhanced immunity.
11 Feb, 2021
All well still. Vaccination site only slightly tender to touch. Despite early talk about reluctance to have the vaccine, something like 92% take-up in the over 70 age group.

Debate now is whether it's safe to book a summer holiday abroad. The problem is, the longer we leave it the greater the demand will be when the flood is finally unleashed as lots of people now have money put aside for the holiday this year they never had last year. Can the tourist centres in Spain, France, etc, gear back up to cope?
12 Feb, 2021
Vaccination site barely noticeable even when pressed hard.

The government have now managed to sow complete confusion about wisdom of booking a holiday this summer with ministers contradicting ministers. No-one is sure yet whether the compulsory quarantine period in a designated hotel, at our own cost, will be in place come July or August.

Now lookign increasingly likely that we will need a booster vaccination in the Autumn to give protection against the South African variant. Problem being that, as the number of people vaccinated worldwide increases so the probability of a novel mutation arising decreases, but the advantage (for the virus) of a mutation which evades the antibodies increases. Also, a suggestion in the news yesterday that the 'Kent' variant could have arisen in a single individual. If so, this shows how a mutation which improves the virus' transmissibility can quickly spread in the virus gene pool.

This from a post in The Conversation yesterday.

According to data from the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine group, released as a preprint with The Lancet last week and yet to be peer reviewed, its vaccine is showing signs of reducing transmission. The shot was associated with a 67% reduction in transmission among vaccinated volunteers in clinical trials in the UK.

It’s early days, but authors of the study suggest the vaccine may have a “substantial” effect on reducing rates of transmission in the future.

In saying that, preliminary data suggest it offers minimal protection against mild or moderate illness caused by the South African variant.
15 days to go for maximum protection from a single injection. No news yet of a second injection...
13 Feb, 2021
7 days post vaccination. no discomfort at vaccination site and no adverse reactions. If increase in immunity is linear over 22 days, then should be about 25% effective at the moment...

Vaccination program on target so optimistic talk in the media about returning to normality and ending lockdown soon. Xoncern still about th South African strain - is Oxford/AZ effective against it? If so, to what extent?
We will delay booking a holiday for a few weeks in any case.

A couple of interesting articles in New scientist on Covid-19...

The 5 best things you can do to boost the chance of a vaccine working
  1. Stress. Avoid it.
    Further findings support these initial hints that stress affects our immune response to vaccines: in older people, a positive mood on the day of vaccination is associated with a higher antibody response to a flu shot.
  2. Sleep. Get at least 7 hours a night on two nights before injection.
    Aric Prather at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at sleep over two weeks, pinpointing sleep duration on the two nights before flu vaccination as the best predictor of the immune response several months later.
  3. Social support.
    Alongside stress and sleep, you may want to try to mitigate the effects of isolation. Even in young, healthy people, feelings of loneliness have been associated with a lower antibody response to flu vaccination.
  4. Alcohol. Moeration.
    Anna Popova, the head of the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, sparked debate advised Russians to quit alcohol two weeks before their first coronavirus vaccine and to abstain until three weeks after their booster shot.
    Others offer different advice:
    Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, which developed the Sputnik V vaccine, said that drinking alcohol after getting a coronavirus jab can impair the immune response and could even render the vaccine ineffective. Contrary to Popova, though, he recommended refraining from alcohol for three days after each injection.
    A study in macaques shows that moderate alcohol consumption – the equivalent in people of up to two units a day – actually appears to create a more robust response to vaccination using a member of the virus family that causes smallpox in humans.
    I'll go with the latter!
  5. Excercise. Get enough.
    Several studies support this. For instance, people who already have an active lifestyle over the age of 62 have higher antibody responses to flu vaccination than those who are sedentary. People who received a tetanus vaccination after completing a marathon had a higher antibody response than non-runners. And women who used an exercise machine in the 45 minutes before flu vaccination had a higher antibody response a month later than those who did no exercise.
    And more...

14 Feb, 2021
All well still.

The government have reached their target of 15 million vaccination of the most vullnerable groups, but no figures yet of the uptake. Presumably, vaccines will now be offered to those under 65.

No doubt Johnson will be claiming credit for this achievement of medical science and our socialised NHS.
The figures today look encouraging as numbers continue to fall.

Meanwhile, a group of right-wing Tories are agitating for a commitment to have all restrictions lifted by mid-May, in advance of what the science may be showing closer to the time.
15 Feb, 2021
The question now is, how long does it take to reach full protection after the second dose? The answer seems to be about 2 weeks. So, if we have the second dose after the 12 weeks as planned (1 May, 2021) this should mean we are at peak protection by mid-May!

Time maybe to start looking seriously at holiday options!

16 Feb, 2021
Looking whistfully at some gites in and around Perpignan, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Hire a car from Paris, drive south to the Auverne, spend a few days there then drive down to Perpignan, possibly via Montpellier or Narbonne. Stay for a couple of weeks with trips to Andora and Spain, then drive back via Toulouse, Bordeaux and Chatres... One can but dream!

Interesting article in The Conversation today about why the sudden proliferation of more infectious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Obvious really. With more people being infected worldwide there are trillions more virus particles being produced every hour, so the chance of a beneficial mutation (from the virus point of view) increases hugely. Even the 1 in a billion chance mutation will happen a thousand times every few hours. It only needs one of those to out-compete its 'normal' variants for new humans to infect by having a slightly higher 'R' number, and we have the potential for exponential growth, just as we saw in UK from the end of December with the 'Kent' variant.
There are several reasons for this, including the continued exponential rise in cases globally. Every COVID-19 case gives the virus a chance to mutate, and if the number of infections continues to rise, more new variants are likely to emerge.
At the current rate of fall in the number of people in hospital, down by 1000+ a day, it is possible that the hospitals could be clear within 3 weeks!
17 Feb, 2021

A lot of talk in the media today about easing the lockdown restrictions. Government need to see much more clear data on the effectiveness of the vaccination program. So far, over 15 million people vaccinated but no clear signs of deaths and hospitalisations reducing. Early days yet.

Guardian 18 Feb, 2021

18 Feb, 2021
18 Feb, 2021
All the talk in the media today is about a fall in the new infection numbers and when, how and how quickly to end the lockdown. Schools need to re-open soon but the stats show that the largest group of new infections are amongst children of school age. Children tend not to become very ill with Covid-19 but can infect others and will act as sources of new variants.

From today's Guardian:
Covid infections have fallen by two-thirds in a month in England but the virus is now spreading most among primary-age children and young people, research suggests.

The React 1 study from Imperial College London points to the third national lockdown having significantly curbed the spread of the coronavirus despite the emergence of new variants.

Prevalence remains high however, with about one in 200 people infected with Covid between 4 and 13 February, compared with about three times that number between 6 and 21 January, the interim findings showed.


The population surveillance study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggests that infections are halving every 15 days. If the trend is similar to that for infections it could take more than six weeks for cases to fall below 1,000 a day – from 12,718 on Wednesday and 9,236 on Tuesday – as advocated by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt before restrictions can be significantly lifted.

Elliott said infections had dropped but prevalence remained higher than when the study began in May 2020. “The last time we saw a prevalence of this rate was around late September last year,” he said.
19 Feb 2021
19 Feb, 2021
Slightly disappointing figures for daily new cases today as it remains stubournly above 12,000. Seems to have plateaued at the level it was at at the end of November, 2020. Deaths are significantly down, however.

Latest R number calculated to between 0.6 and 0.9.

From the BBC:
The ONS results, based on tests from people whether or not they had symptoms, suggest:
  • One in 115 people in England has the virus (compared to one in 80 the week before)
  • In Northern Ireland, it is one in 105 (compared to one in 75 previously)
  • In Wales, it is one in 125 (compared to one in 85 before)
  • In Scotland, it is one in 180 (compared to one in 150)
In England, there is some regional variation in the infection rate, although it is decreasing in all areas.

North-west England had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus - at around one in 85 people.

There has been a "strong decline" in levels of coronavirus infections in England since January, say scientists tracking the epidemic.

Imperial College London's React study found infections have dropped by two-thirds across England since lockdown began, with an 80% fall in London.

But virus levels are still high, with one in 200 testing positive between 4 and 13 February.

This is similar to levels seen in late September 2020.

Although these are interim findings, based on more than 85,000 swab tests from randomly selected people, they suggest social distancing and restrictions are having an impact.

A further 12,057 Covid cases have been reported in the UK, and there have been another 454 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. Last Thursday, 13,494 cases and 678 deaths were reported.

The total number of people to have received the first dose of vaccine now stands at 16,423,082 - a daily rise of 482,110.

But more than 20,000 Covid patients are currently in hospital in the UK, and although new daily cases and hospital admissions are falling, they are still relatively high.

The React report found falls in infections across all age groups, with 18 to 24-year-olds and five to 12-year-olds currently having the highest virus levels - although still below 1%.

It estimates the over-65s have the lowest levels of virus at 0.3%.

More young children have been attending school during this lockdown than in the last one, which may have helped keep virus levels slightly higher in these age groups.
20 Feb, 2021
14 days post-jab! So, assuming antibody production increase is linear, we should be about 45% protected now. Absolutely no signs of any ill-effects or reactions. No tenderness at the injection site.

An interesting resume of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected Europe by the BBC. Especially germain to us as we consider our summer plans:
Spain's lockdown was among the harshest in Europe, says Nekane Balluerka Lasa, professor of behavioural sciences methodology at the University of the Basque Country. Isolation was particularly hard for older people and lower-income families, especially if there was no nuclear unit. Spaniards are used to social interaction. Infections came down, but the economic cost was very high and the main lesson was the impact on people's mental health. Maybe that explains why it wasn't possible to keep it going. Our study found that 46% of people felt grave psychological distress.

Italians were initially frightened into uncharacteristic obedience, says BBC Rome correspondent Mark Lowen. They were the first to be crushed by the virus, the first to see intensive care units close to collapse, and friends and family dying. Very widespread respect for restrictions began to change with the second wave, with some protests against renewed lockdowns, given the fear and fatigue.

France finally goes digital, by Lucy Williamson, BBC Paris correspondent. Until the second lockdown last autumn, life in France often evoked an age of typewriters and triplicate. Despite an annual turnover of almost €2.4tn (£2.1tn; $2.9tn), two-thirds of small businesses didn't operate online, and the websites of even vast iconic department stores like Galeries Lafayette or BHV offered little more than an address and opening hours, plus an image or two of some fancy shoes. Now, everything from cafe meals to tax payments and residency card applications can be made online and the department stores have slick websites. Boosting the digital economy has been a key goal for President Emmanuel Macron; the pandemic a strange ally in pushing France online.
21 Feb, 2021
Scroll down for interactive map
21 Feb, 2021
The numbers continue to fall. New cases below 10,000 per day for the first time since 28 Sep, 2020. Deaths down to 215 (admittedly for a Saturday - weekend figure is always low due to delayed reporting), and patients in hospital down to mid-December levels.

Government is claiming the fact that new cases are falling faster than in the first wave is evidence that vaccination is reducing transmission rates.

The government has announced a revised plan to have all people in the top 9 priority groups and all over 50 vaccinated by the end of April and all adults by the end of July. Oder of priority for those under 50 has yet to be determined.

Lockdown to be eased slowly and according to progress with vaccines. The thinking is that becoming infected while your body is still building up its antibodies will lead to more resistant strains emerging, whereas if your body can hit the virus hard early on, there will be less chance of resistance evolving.

The intersting thing is how a clear understanding of evolution is essential in formulating these policies.
22 Feb 2021
Reports in the media this morning that preliminary resuls from a study in Scotland has shown the the Oxford AZ vaccine has 'spactacular impact' on preventing serious illness:
The first results of the UK vaccination programme suggests it is having a "spectacular" impact on preventing serious illness.

Research led by Public Health Scotland found in the fourth week after the first dose, hospitalisations were reduced by 85% and 94% for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs respectively.

It is the first sign of the real world impact of vaccination in the UK.

Figures for England are expected to be released later.

Among the over 80s, there was an overall 81% reduction in the numbers admitted to hospital.

The researchers did not look at the impact on transmission - whether people who were vaccinated passed it on - or whether immunity waned over time.

The preliminary data from the EAVE II project covers 1.14 million vaccinations given in Scotland between 8 December and 15 February.

The study looked at the numbers being admitted to hospital with Covid among this population and compared it to those admitted who were not vaccinated.
Later: Johnson has now set out a plan for ending the lockdown and all social restrictions by 21 June, if conditions are met.
  1. 8 March. Schools open. Outdoor after-school sports allowed.

    Two people (not from same household) allowed to sit together outdoors

    Care home residents allowed one regular visitor.
  2. 29 March. Six people from two households allowed to meet outdoors.

    Outdoor sports facilities open. Organised sport allowed.

    Travel outside local area allowed.
  3. 12 April*. Non-essential retail and personal care open.

    Hospitality outdoors open.

    Indoor leisure (gyms, swimming pools) open.

    Self-contained holiday accomodation open. (single household).
  4. 17 May*. Outdoors most social contact rules lifted.

    Six people or two households can meet indoors.

    Indoor hospitality and hotels open.
  5. 24 June*. All legal limits on social contact removed.

    Hope to reopen final closed sectors of the economy.
* Earlest dates.

The announcement was followed by an immediate surge in bookins for foreign holidays, but we have decided to be cautious and wait a while to see how things work out in Europe.

22 February 2021
More optimistice news today about a substantial fall in deaths in care homes and amongst the over 80s generally, pointing to the success of the vaccines.
Daily new cases below 10,000 for the first time sine early October 2020.
24 Feb 2021

New cases

Deaths within 28 days of positive test
24 Feb 2021
Seems probable that we will now need a regular booster each autumn to keep up with mutations - like the flu jab. May be a conbined flu/covid jab.

Slightly dsapointing numbers today as recorded new cases rose slightly on previous day but still below 10,000, just. But deaths within 28 days of a positive test are still well down at 442.
25 Feb 2021
All the talk in the news media now is about lifting restrictions on social contact and economic recovery. Johnson & Johnson have announced high level of protection against South African and Brazilian variants with their new sing-dose vaccine. No plans for it to be used in UK as yet.
US regulators have found the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective.

It paves the way for it to become the third Covid-19 vaccine to be authorised in the US, possibly within days.

The vaccine would be a cost-effective alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer.

Trials found it prevented serious illness but was 66% effective overall when moderate cases were included.

The company has agreed to provide the US with 100 million doses by the end of June. The UK, EU and Canada have also ordered doses and 500 million doses have also been ordered through the Covax scheme to supply poorer nations.
Source: BBC
Of special relavance to us and our travel plans is this news item:

France: New lockdown on the French Riviera

France has a curfew between 18:00 and 06:00. Shops and businesses must be closed, and everyone must be at home.

Schools are open with extra testing in place.

France closed its borders to all non-EU countries from 31 January, although hauliers are exempt.

Bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and ski resorts remain shut.

In addition to nationwide restrictions, lockdown measures will be put in place in parts of the French Riviera, including Nice and Cannes, from 18:00 on 26 February to 06:00 on 1 March. People will be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons only, and will need written permission stating the reason for being out.
Source: BBC
Let's hope those restrictions are removed before we go there, if that's where we go.

Slighty disappointing figues today as similar to yesterday. Still below 10,000. Deaths are well down.
25 Feb 2021
26 Feb 2020
Today's figures are lookign much better - down almost 2,000 on previous 2 days and deaths now below 400. Difficult to tell yet a while what impact vaccines are having as most people in hospital/dying would have been infected before a significnt number of people had been vaccinated and had had time for antibodies to reach their maximum levels. But all the figures are heading in the right direction.

UK alert level officially reduced fron 5 (highest) to 4, but no relaxation of social distancing regs., etc, yet.

Why has the alert level gone down?

The level has been changed because the number of people in hospital is falling and "the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded".

The decision was announced in statement by the UK's chief medical officers and NHS England's national medical director.

Level four means coronavirus transmission remains "high," and health services are still "under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital".

"Transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high," the statement added.

A change in alert system does not automatically mean restrictions can ease, but it helps to inform government decisions on lockdown rules.

Source: BBC
27 February 2021
27 Feb 2021
3 weeks now since our jabs, so protection should be at about 64%.

From this weeks News Scientist:
Finally, some good news. The first real-world studies on the effectiveness of two coronavirus vaccines have shown they are performing “spectacularly well”.

In the first of two results announced today, one dose of vaccine cut hospitalisations due to covid-19 in Scotland by more than 85 per cent.

The research, led by five Scottish universities and Public Health Scotland, involved 99 per cent of Scotland’s 5.4 million people, 1.1 million of whom received a vaccine between 8 December and 15 February.

By the fifth week after receiving their first dose, those who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab had reduced their risk of hospitalisation by 94 per cent, and those who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by 85 per cent.
So, on that basis, in another two weeks we'll be 94% protected against hospitalisation.

Today's figures show good progress in reducing the numbers of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
New cases

Patients in hospitals

28 Feb 2021
28 Feb 2021
More vey good figures today.

However, the BBC are runnign a story that the Brazilian 'variant of concern' has been found in England and Scotland:
A coronavirus "variant of concern" first detected in Brazil has now been found in the UK.

Three cases have been detected in England and separately three in Scotland.

In England, officials are still trying to track down one of those who tested positive for the new variant.

Meanwhile the three Scottish residents had flown to Scotland from Brazil via Paris and London, the Scottish government said.

Experts believe this variant (P1), first detected in travellers to Japan from Manaus in northern Brazil in January, could be more contagious.

How worrying is the Brazil coronavirus variant?

In England, the first two cases were from the same household in South Gloucestershire, with a history of travel to Brazil, but the third is not linked, Public Health England (PHE) said.

The whereabouts of that third person are still not known, as PHE says they did not complete their test registration card so follow-up details are unavailable.

Officials are asking anyone who took a test on 12 or 13 February and who has not received a result or has an uncompleted test registration card to come forward immediately.

Testing is now being ramped up in South Gloucestershire, with people living in five postcode areas invited to get tested even if they do not have symptoms. The postcodes fall within Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke.

Scotland cases

With regards the three cases in Scotland, the government said other passengers, who were on the same flight from London to Aberdeen, are now being contacted.

"The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution," said Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

"We have identified these cases thanks to our use of advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly."

The Scottish government said this variant has been been designated "of concern" as it shares some important mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa. Research suggests some vaccines may be less effective against the South Africa variant.
Over 20 million people in the UK have now had a coronavirus jab, and letters inviting those aged over 60 are beign sent out to arrive next week.
Vaccine Myths Debunked
New Cases
New Hospital Admissions

1 Mar 2021
01 Mar 2021
More good figures. New cases now at their lowest since late Sep 2020.

Still a lot in the news about the Brazilian variant though.

What are these new variants?

There are many thousands of different versions, or variants, of Covid circulating.

Concerns focus on a few:
  • A UK or Kent variant (also known as B.1.1.7) now dominant in much of Britain, has spread to more than 50 countries and appears to be mutating again
  • A South Africa variant (B.1.351) found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK
  • The variant from Brazil (P1) detected in four travellers to Japan which has now been found in the UK
It's not unexpected that new variants have developed - all viruses mutate as they make copies of themselves to spread and thrive.

Most of these differences are inconsequential. A few can even be harmful to the virus's survival. But some can make it more infectious or threatening.

  • Coronavirus variants: The science explained

Are the new ones more dangerous?

There is no evidence that any of them cause much more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected.

As with the original version, the risk is highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

For the UK variant there is some research suggesting it may be associated with a 30% higher risk of death. The evidence is not strong and the data is still uncertain though.

Measures such as washing your hands, keeping your distance from other people and wearing a face covering will still help prevent infections. Because the new variants appear to spread more easily it is important to be extra vigilant.
Source: BBC
New Cases
Hospital Admissions
Cummulative 1st Dose Vaccinations

2 Mar 2021
2 Mar 2021
Very little about Covid-19 in the news today as all the talk is about the budget with the need to raise taxes to recover the expenditure to maintain business and and jobs during the lockdowns.
New Cases
Hospital Amissions
3 Mar 2021
3 March 2021
Still talking about the budget.

Numbers seem to have stayed about the same as previous day but down on the equivaen day a week ago.
4 March 2021
News today that the fall in nembers may have slowed:
A marked decline in infections between January and February may have slowed, according to scientists tracking coronavirus in England.

Infections fell by two-thirds over lockdown, but one in 200 people still have the virus.

Lower virus levels are needed to get the best out of the vaccination programme, Imperial College's React study says.

Schools are reopening on Monday in England in the first easing of rules.

Based on swab tests of a random sample of 165,000 people between 4 and 23 February, the study findings estimate that 0.5% of people in England had the virus - down from 1.57% in January.

The figures show "substantial falls" in household infections in all age groups and in most regions since early January, while lockdown restrictions have been in place.

It comes as official figures continue to show sharp falls in confirmed cases, hospital admissions and deaths linked to Covid-19 going back several weeks.

But the study found some evidence of smaller falls in infections in Yorkshire and the north-east, and apparent rises in London, the south-east and the Midlands - although this was based on only a few days' worth of data in February.

Although the researchers say it's too early to detect the effect of the vaccination programme on rates of infection in the study, they stress the need to keep infections low while Covid vaccines are being rolled out.

Source: BBC
Also news that the UK regulaors have given the go-ahead for modified vaccines to cater for variant forms of the virus can be fast-tracked into use. No need for extensive field studies, so long as shown to produce antibodies in the blood.
New Covid vaccines to fight variants like the one from Brazil can be fast-tracked through the approval system, says the UK's regulator the MHRA.

Current vaccines may not work as well against some variants and scientists are working on updating them now.

But manufacturers will not need to seek brand new approval or do lengthy clinical studies.

However they will need proof that the shots trigger protective antibodies in the blood.

The aim is to shorten the process, where possible, so that vaccine approval could happen in weeks and months, not years.

A similar fast-track method is already used for annual flu vaccines which regularly need updating to keep up with a virus that is constantly changing by mutating.

The MHRA has issued guidance, along with authorities in Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland, on what checks and measures would be necessary.

The coalition of regulators - the ACCESS Consortium - insist no corners will be cut, with safety paramount.

Source: BBC
New Cases
Hospital Admissions
Vaccinations (Cumulative)
4 Mar 2021
5 Mar 2021
Lates news from ONS is that cases are continuing to fall:
Levels of coronavirus infections in the UK have continued to fall, Office for National Statistics data shows.

The figures, for the seven days up to 27 February, reveal around 1-in-230 people has the virus in the community.

It suggests that the number infected has fallen by about a third in the most recent week of data.

Infections have also dropped in the over 70s age group in England, potentially as a result of the vaccine rollout, say experts.

The latest R number - 0.7 and 0.9 - suggests infection numbers are shrinking overall in the UK. It means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people.

Source: BBC
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5 Mar 2021
5 Mar 2021
Figures continuing to fall and vaccinations now over 21,000,000!
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6 Mar 2021
6 Mar 2021
4 weeks today since we had our first jabs. Should be approaching 80% protected now!

A worrying paper published two days ago in Nature Medicine suggests variant are less susceptible to antibodies, either acquired naturally by infection or artificially by vaccination:
New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that three new, fast-spreading variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 can evade antibodies that work against the original form of the virus that sparked the pandemic. With few exceptions, whether such antibodies were produced in response to vaccination or natural infection, or were purified antibodies intended for use as drugs, the researchers found more antibody is needed to neutralize the new variants.

The findings, from laboratory-based experiments and published March 4 in Nature Medicine, suggest that COVID-19 drugs and vaccines developed thus far may become less effective as the new variants become dominant, as experts say they inevitably will. The researchers looked at variants from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

“We’re concerned that people whom we’d expect to have a protective level of antibodies because they have had COVID-19 or been vaccinated against it, might not be protected against the new variants,” said senior author Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine. “There’s wide variation in how much antibody a person produces in response to vaccination or natural infection. Some people produce very high levels, and they would still likely be protected against the new, worrisome variants. But some people, especially older and immunocompromised people, may not make such high levels of antibodies. If the level of antibody needed for protection goes up tenfold, as our data indicate it does, they may not have enough. The concern is that the people who need protection the most are the ones least likely to have it.”

The virus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2, uses a protein called spike to latch onto and get inside cells. People infected with SARS-CoV-2 generate the most protective antibodies against the spike protein.

Consequently, spike became the prime target for COVID-19 drug and vaccine developers. The three vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use in the U.S. — made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — all target spike. And potent anti-spike antibodies were selected for development into antibody-based drugs for COVID-19.

Viruses are always mutating, but for nearly a year the mutations that arose in SARS-CoV-2 did not threaten this spike-based strategy. Then, this winter, fast-spreading variants were detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere. Sparking concern, the new variants all carry multiple mutations in their spike genes, which could lessen the effectiveness of spike-targeted drugs and vaccines now being used to prevent or treat COVID-19. The most worrisome new variants were given the names of B.1.1.7 (from the U.K.), B.1.135 (South Africa) and B.1.1.248, also known as P.1 (Brazil).

To assess whether the new variants could evade antibodies made for the original form of the virus, Diamond and colleagues, including first author Rita E. Chen, a graduate student in Diamond’s lab, tested the ability of antibodies to neutralize three virus variants in the laboratory.

The researchers tested the variants against antibodies in the blood of people who had recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection or were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. They also tested antibodies in the blood of mice, hamsters and monkeys that had been vaccinated with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, developed at Washington University School of Medicine, that can be given through the nose. The B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant could be neutralized with similar levels of antibodies as were needed to neutralize the original virus. But the other two variants required from 3.5 to 10 times as much antibody for neutralization.
Of course what we have here is a classic evolutionary arms race. As the virus finds itself in an increasingly hostile environment so variants that improve its ability to reproduce will come to dominate in the species genepool.

The answer will be to have regular updated vaccination, probably anually or even bianually.
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07 Mar 2021

Cases declining

The number of daily infections in the UK continues to decline, with strict lockdown measures still in place across the country.

A further 5,177 confirmed cases across the UK were announced by the government on Sunday.

This is down from 6,035 cases last Sunday.

It is thought the infection rate was much higher than was evident from the reported number of cases during the first peak in spring last year. Testing capacity was too limited to detect the true number of daily cases.

The darker orange areas on the map below show the places currently seeing the highest number of cases per 100,000 people.

Vaccine rollout continues

More than 22 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine, and more than one million people have had a second.

The current seven-day average for first doses is just over 300,000 doses a day - down from more than 400,000 a day in early February.

This drop in first doses can be partially explained by an increase in the number of second doses now being administered.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also blamed the reduction on supply issues and said the rollout will see "some really bumper weeks in March".

In total, about 18.9 million people in England have had one vaccine dose.

In Scotland, more than 1.7 million people have had their first dose, while the figure is approaching one million in Wales and nearly 600,000 in Northern Ireland.

The government is aiming to offer a vaccine to everyone in the top nine priority groups, including care home residents, healthcare workers, people required to shield and everyone aged 50 and over, by 15 April.

After that, the rest of the adult population will be vaccinated, with people prioritised by age.

All adults in the UK are expected to be offered their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July.

Source: BBC
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08 Mar 2021
8 Mar 2021
Children back at school today. It'll be interesting to se what, if any, impact this has on the number of cases. Childrena re to be tested regularly and secondary school children to wear face-masks in class.

The number are continuing to fall. Now down to the 4,000s for new cases and deaths in double figures (but those are Sunday figures which are always low because of reporting) However, comparrison with last Sunday shows a marked fall.

No sign of our second dose yet.

R number still estimated to be 0.7-0.9.
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09 Mar 2021
New cases and deaths up from yesterday, but this is normal for a Monday due to reporting lags over the weekend. The true comparrison is with the previous Monday or the 7-day figure.

There are contunued concerns about resistance evolving in the virus. I have a separate blog post on this, from the intelligent [sic] design / malevolent designer perspective.

This from Columbia University today:
A new study of the U.K. and South Africa variants of SARS-CoV-2 predicts that current vaccines and certain monoclonal antibodies may be less effective at neutralizing these variants and that the new variants raise the specter that reinfections could be more likely.

The study was published in Nature on March 8, 2021. A preprint of the study was first posted to BioRxiv on January 26, 2021. [Although the Nature publication is behind a paywall, the BioRxiv version is open access.]

The study’s predictions are now being borne out with the first reported results of the Novavax vaccine, says the study's lead author David Ho, MD. The company reported on Jan. 28 that the vaccine was nearly 90% effective in the company’s U.K. trial, but only 49.4% effective in its South Africa trial, where most cases of COVID-19 are caused by the B.1.351 variant.


After vaccination, the immune system responds and makes antibodies that can neutralize the virus.

Ho and his team found that antibodies in blood samples taken from people inoculated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine were less effective at neutralizing the two variants, B.1.1.7, which emerged last September in England, and B.1.351, which emerged from South Africa in late 2020. Against the U.K. variant, neutralization dropped by roughly 2-fold, but against the South Africa variant, neutralization dropped by 6.5- to 8.5-fold.

“The approximately 2-fold loss of neutralizing activity against the U.K. variant is unlikely to have an adverse impact due to the large 'cushion' of residual neutralizing antibody activity,” Ho says, “and we see that reflected in the Novavax results where the vaccine was 85.6% effective against the U.K. variant.”

Data from Ho’s study about the loss in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant are more worrisome.

“The drop in neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant is appreciable, and we’re now seeing, based on the Novavax results, that this is causing a reduction in protective efficacy,” Ho says. The new study did not examine the more recent variant found in Brazil (B.1.1.28) but given the similar spike mutations between the Brazil and South Africa variants, Ho says the Brazil variant should behave similarly to the South Africa variant.


The study also found that certain monoclonal antibodies used now to treat COVID patients may not work against the South Africa variant. And based on results with plasma from COVID patients who were infected earlier in the pandemic, the B.1.351 variant from South Africa has the potential to cause reinfection.

New study contains comprehensive analysis of variants

The new study conducted an extensive analysis of mutations in the two SARS-CoV-2 variants compared to other recent studies, which have reported similar findings.

The new study examined all mutations in the spike protein of the two variants. (Vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments work by recognizing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.)

The researchers created SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses (viruses that produce the coronavirus spike protein but cannot cause infection) with the eight mutations found in the U.K. variant and the nine mutations found in the South African variant.

They then measured the sensitivity of these pseudoviruses to monoclonal antibodies developed to treat COVID patients, convalescent serum from patients who were infected earlier in the pandemic, and serum from patients who have been vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Implications for monoclonal antibody treatments

The study measured the neutralizing activity of 18 different monoclonal antibodies—including the antibodies in two products authorized for use in the United States.

Against the U.K. variant, most antibodies were still potent, although the neutralizing activity of two antibodies in development was modestly impaired.

Against the South Africa variant, however, the neutralizing activity of four antibodies was completely or markedly abolished. Those antibodies include bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555, approved for use in the United States) that was completely inactive against the South Africa variant, and casirivimab, one of the two antibodies in an approved antibody cocktail (REGN-COV) that was 58-fold less effective at neutralizing the South Africa variant compared to the original virus. The second antibody in the cocktail, imdevimab, retained its neutralizing ability, as did the complete cocktail.

“Decisions of the use of these treatments will depend heavily on the local prevalence of the South Africa and Brazil variants,” Ho says, “highlighting the importance of viral genomic surveillance and proactive development of next-generation antibody therapeutics.”

Reinfection implications

Serum from most patients who had recovered from COVID earlier in the pandemic had 11-fold less neutralizing activity against the South Africa variant and 4-fold less neutralizing activity against the U.K. variant.

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Figures a little dissapointing today as slight adverse movement upwards. Too soon for this to be due to children back at school although increased testing could account for higher daily new cases.
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11 Mar 2021
Figures still rather static today and the news is dominated by some countries having suspended use of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because 3 people (of the tens of millions who have had the vaccine now!) went on to develope blood clots. There is no indication that they were connected to the vaccine in any way.
There is no indication that the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is linked to an increased risk of blood clots, the EU's medicines regulator says.

It said the number of cases in vaccinated people was no higher than in the general population.

The statement came after a number of countries, including Denmark and Norway, suspended the use of the jab.

The suspension followed reports that a small number of people had developed clots after receiving the vaccine.

There were also reports that a 50-year-old man had died in Italy after developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) following a dose of the jab.

"There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday.

"The vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing," it added.

It said there had been 30 cases of "thromboembolic events" among the five million Europeans who have received the jab.
AstraZeneca said the drug's safety had been studied extensively in clinical trials. "Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine," a spokesperson said.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was no evidence the vaccine had caused problems, and people should still go and get vaccinated when asked to do so. "Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK," said Phil Bryan of the MHRA.

The decision to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca's jab has come as a setback for a European vaccination campaign that has stuttered into life, partly due to delays in delivery of the drug.

However, there was a positive development on Thursday as the EMA approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. "More safe and effective vaccines are coming to the market," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted, although some reports suggest that J&J vaccine shipments may not arrive until April.

Source: BBC
Over 23 million people in UK have now been vaccinated. Government advise is still to not book foreign travel at least before mid-May.

Some of the apparent slight increase in new cases could be due to all school children now being tested routinely in schools.
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12 Mar 2021
New cases are UP slightly on last Friday!
There have been more than 4.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and over 125,000 people have died, government figures show.

However, these figures include only people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

More than 23 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Cases have declined

The average number of new daily cases in the UK has fallen substantially in recent weeks, and strict lockdown measures are beginning to be eased.

A further 6,609 confirmed cases across the UK were announced by the government on Friday.

This is an increase on last Friday's total of 5,947 new cases.

The UK's chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty warned this week that the fight against the virus is far from finished.

"A lot of people may think this is all over. It is very easy to forget how quickly things can turn bad," he said.


Vaccine rollout continues

More than 23.3 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine - around a third of the population - and more than 1.4 million people have had a second.

The current seven-day average for first doses is around 215,000 doses a day - down from more than 400,000 a day in early February.

This drop in first doses can be partially explained by an increase in the number of second doses now being administered.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also blamed the reduction on supply issues.


Daily deaths also falling

A further 175 deaths across the UK within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Friday.

This is down from 236 deaths a week earlier.

Of the most recently reported deaths, 145 were in England, 17 in Scotland, 12 in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Source: BBC
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13 Mar 2021
13 Mar 2021
The fall in numbers seems to have slowed or even plateaued.

We're now 5 weeks post-vaccination so should be about 85% protected. No sign yet of our second jab.
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14 Mar 2021
14 Mar 2021
A good fall in the numbers today but then it is the weekend when reporting delays can give artificially low figures.

Vaccinations now over 24 million with almost 1.6 million having a second dose. No sign of our second dose yet. There were reports yesterday that the NHS is planning a third 'booster' dose for the elderly in about August, to be on the safe-side over next winter.

A lot of talk still about Oxford AZ vaccine and blood clots. Also reports from Austria that a man died of a heart attack the day after havign the vaccine. In all the millions of people who have had at least one does, I'm surprised that only one person has had a hart attack the next day, especially given that most of them will be elderly or in poor health. I wonder how many have fallen down stairs or had a nosebleed!

From a Guardia article 15 March:
Call it luck, chance or fate – it’s difficult to incorporate this into our thinking. So when the European Medicines Agency says there have been 30 “thromboembolic events” after around 5m vaccinations, the crucial question to ask is: how many would be expected anyway, in the normal run of things?

We can try a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation. Deep vein thromboses (DVTs) happen to around one person per 1,000 each year, and probably more in the older population being vaccinated. Working on the basis of these figures, out of 5 million people getting vaccinated, we would expect significantly more than 5,000 DVTs a year, or at least 100 every week. So it is not at all surprising that there have been 30 reports.

It would be so much easier if we had a group of people exactly like those being vaccinated but who didn’t get jabbed. This would tell us how many serious events we could expect to happen to people that were the result of sheer bad luck. Fortunately, we do have such a group. In the trials that led to the vaccines being approved in the UK, volunteers were randomly allocated to receive either the active vaccine or a dummy injection. Everyone then reported any harms they experienced, but crucially nobody knew if they had received the real stuff or an inert injection. By comparing the numbers of reports from the two groups, we can see how many “reactions” were really owing to the active ingredients, and how many were linked to the vaccination process, or would have happened anyway.

Some kind of adverse events were reported by 38% of those receiving the real vaccine but, rather remarkably, 28% of those who received the dummy also reported a side-effect. This shows that the vaccination process itself causes about two-thirds of all the reported harm. Of more than 24,000 participants, fewer than 1% reported a serious adverse event, and of these 168 people, slightly more had received the dummy than the active vaccine. So there was no evidence of increased risk from taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Pfizer trials had similar results, with more mild or moderate adverse events in the vaccine group but almost identical numbers of serious events.

Trials are short and comparatively small, and tend to include healthy people, so we need to collect real-world data as the vaccines are rolled out. In the UK, adverse reactions are reported using the “yellow card” system, which dates back to the days when doctors filled in yellow cards to report side-effects. Up to 28 February, around 54,000 yellow cards have been reported for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, from around 10 million vaccinations given (the Pfizer vaccine has a slightly lower rate). So for both vaccines, the overall reporting rate is around three to six reports per 1,000 jabs. That means a far greater number of side-effects are reported in the trials than through the yellow card system (of course, one factor in this underreporting may be the yellow card website, which appears designed for medical professionals rather than patients experiencing side-effects).

The vast majority of the side-effects reported through the yellow card system and in randomised trials are reports of direct reactions to the jab, such as a sore arm, or subsequent general flu-like symptoms of headache, tiredness, fever and so on, which subside in a few days. The most serious problem is anaphylactic reactions, and the advice is not to inject anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to either a prior dose of the vaccine or its ingredients.

So far, these vaccines have shown themselves to be extraordinarily safe. In fact, it’s perhaps surprising that we haven’t heard more stories of adverse effects. There could well be some extremely rare event that is triggered by Covid-19 vaccines, but there is no sign of this yet. We can just hope that this message gets through to those who are still hesitant because of the misinformation that has been spread about the supposed harm of vaccines, and the unhelpful comments made by some European politicians.

Will we ever be able to resist the urge to find causal relationships between different events? One way of doing this would be promoting the scientific method and ensuring everyone understands this basic principle. Testing a hypothesis helps us see which hunches or assumptions are correct and which aren’t. In this way, randomised trials have proved the effectiveness of some Covid treatments and saved vast numbers of lives, while also showing us that some overblown claims about treatments for Covid-19, such as hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, were incorrect.
Just over 8,000 people now in hospital with Covid-19 (down 385 on previous day). Just 52 deaths - the lowest number since October 2020 (but a weekend figure).
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15 Mar 2021
(Hospital data is for 11 Mar 2021)
15 Mar-2021
The R number is now being quoted as 0.6 to 0.8!

Total vaccinated with first dose is close to 24.5 million. Second dose over 1.6 million.
~ Deaths and new cases were both up a little on the previous day but low for the week. Hospital patient data is for 11 Mar 2021!
The followign week will be interesting. Has the fall stopped or will it continue downwads? Will the return to school start the figures on an upward trend again?

Another paper out today concerning resistence to vaccines of emerging varients:


  • Numerous variants of SARS-CoV-2 harboring mutations in spike have arisen globally
  • mRNA vaccines elicit potent neutralizing activity against homologous pseudovirus
  • Cross-neutralization of strains with receptor binding domain (RBD) mutations is poor
  • Both RBD and non-RBD mutations mediate escape from vaccine-induced humoral immunity


Vaccination elicits immune responses capable of potently neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. However, ongoing surveillance has revealed the emergence of variants harboring mutations in spike, the main target of neutralizing antibodies. To understand the impact of these variants, we evaluated the neutralization potency of 99 individuals that received one or two doses of either BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines against pseudoviruses representing 10 globally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. Five of the 10 pseudoviruses, harboring receptor-binding domain mutations, including K417N/T, E484K, and N501Y, were highly resistant to neutralization. Cross-neutralization of B.1.351 variants was comparable to SARS-CoV and bat-derived WIV1-CoV, suggesting that a relatively small number of mutations can mediate potent escape from vaccine responses. While the clinical impact of neutralization resistance remains uncertain, these results highlight the potential for variants to escape from neutralizing humoral immunity and emphasize the need to develop broadly protective interventions against the evolving pandemic.

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16 Mar 2021
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17 Mar 2021
16 Mar 2021
It looks like the fall in the nymber of new patients has stalled at about the same level it was in late October 2020.

More in the news today about people developing blood clots after the Oxford AZ vaccine. All the scientific advice is that this is not a real problem associated wth the vaccine. In fact, with something like 37 cases of blood clots from 17,000,000 people vaccinated this figure is actually lower than would be statistically normal. Given that these are not a randomly selcted sample but consist of mostly the elderly and people with under-lying health issues that make them at increassed risk from Covid-19, it would be easier to make the case that the vaccine protects against bloodclots. However, since this is not a proper clinical trial on a radomised cohort, it would be just as wrong to try to make that claim.

The suspicion is that there is a political motive behind all this - possibly somethign to do with the EU not getting sufficient doses as a priority. We shall see.

This from The Conversation

Blood clot fears: how misapplication of the precautionary principle may undermine public trust in vaccines

Anthony R Cox, University of Birmingham

The arrival of effective vaccines against COVID-19 has been one of the few good news stories of the pandemic. However, communicating the safety of vaccines has long been difficult, as shown by most countries having some level of vaccine hesitancy, including hesitancy towards COVID-19 vaccines specifically.

Just as regulatory authorities – such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – had systems in place to assess if the vaccines worked, so too did they create carefully thought through vaccine safety plans to deal with any safety signals arising after the vaccines’ deployment.

However, this week the EU’s plan for vaccine safety was thrown into confusion. At least 12 EU states have suspended use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of concerns of a possible link between the vaccine and blood clots. These concerns are registered in spontaneous reports, where a patient or healthcare professional suspects a link between an adverse event they’ve witnessed and the vaccine. Reporters do not have to be sure of a link, and these reports do not prove there’s any association between the vaccine and the event.

The number of blood clots reported among people taking the vaccine, assuming even a fairly high level of under-reporting, does not seem to be higher than would be expected in the general population. Many things happen after vaccination that would have happened without the vaccine.

That said, in some countries, such as Norway and Germany, an extremely rare form of blood clot in the brain called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) has been reported. Incidence of CVST in the normal population is hard to measure, although Johns Hopkins Medicine has said it may affect around one in every 200,000 people each year. In Germany, the incidence of CVST post vaccination has exceeded this rate, so the EMA is carefully examining each case to look for possible contributing factors.

But so far, the World Health Organization, EMA, MHRA and AstraZeneca have all said that there is no evidence of a causal link between the vaccine and clots, and the EMA has said it is firmly convinced that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. Yet if this is the case, why have the advisory committees of some EU states decided to suspend the vaccine?

A good tool badly used

A major reason appears to be the misapplication of the precautionary principle. This is where you take anticipatory action to avoid potential harm, even when the evidence around that harm is uncertain. It can be a useful tool when needing to make a decision in a situation that includes risk and uncertainty.

The precautionary principle evolved from critiques of risk assessments that were based on scientific methods. These, it was argued, were too conservative, requiring too much evidence to prove risk, and so perhaps biased towards seeing an absence of harms.

The earliest forms of the principle are thought to have arisen in West Germany in the 1970s, where “Vorsorgeprinzip” was used in environmental policy to limit actions that were suspected but not proven to cause ecological damage. Past case studies of harms for which there were early warnings but only later actual evidence – such as asbestos – show the sorts of outcomes that the principle can potentially help avoid.

Regarding pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine, the principle has been cited explicitly by some EU states. Others have invoked it implicitly in interviews, saying they will “err on the side of caution”. However, there are trade-offs – and that’s the primary reason why we can say the principle has been misapplied.

COVID-19 vaccines are being used to prevent deaths. Decisions to suspend their use will slow vaccination campaigns by reducing vaccine availability. Suspensions might also affect vaccine uptake by sparking wider concerns about safety among the public. Confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine is already relatively low in Europe, with high-profile comments about its effectiveness having dented uptake.

So rather than avoiding risk, the principle has instead moved countries away from one risk (blood clots) towards another (lower vaccine coverage). The impact of the latter could be much larger.

Even if this weren’t the case, the principle has still, arguably, been misapplied. Plans for COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring until now have been based around rigorous scientific evaluation of safety signals, careful communications to ensure vaccine hesitancy is not increased, and ensuring that signals are investigated to examine if any risk requires regulatory action.

Because potential safety signals arise often in vaccine and drug safety, with many being false signals, the precautionary principle doesn’t fit with such plans. It is too sensitive, and in the case of COVID-19 vaccines, doesn’t initiate any safety assessments that aren’t already happening.

As we have seen this week, misapplication of the precautionary principle leads to erratic decision making that fails to do the very thing it intends to: lower risk. The decisions made could potentially have long-term health effects both in the EU and globally. As a result, one might say we need to be more cautious about the application of the precautionary principle.The Conversation

Anthony R Cox, Reader in Clinical Pharmacy and Drug Safety, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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18 Mar-2021
17 Mar 2021
Main news today, in addition to the nonsense about blood clots, is the impending shortage of vaccines for April. NHS Trusts directed not to take any more bookings for first jabs for under 50's until May. Not clear where this leves us as we were due for 2nd jab early May.

The decline in new cases has flattened to about where we were mid-October 2020 at the start of the winter peak. Could be the result of increased testing now school children are tested routinely a couple of times a week, with or without symptoms.

Deaths and hospital admissions contineu to decline, possibly early signs that the vaccines are working to reduce deaths and serious illness.
More to follow....
18 Mar 2021
New cases are up slightly, confirming that the fall in cases has stalled. But the number of deaths and hospital admissions are both down, suggesting the vaccines may be reducing the seriousness of cases if not preventing them completely.

The main story is till the lack of supplies for April and the continuing nonsense about the risk of blood clots.

The danger now is that people will be deterred from having the vaccine.

The EU's leading states are to restart their roll-out of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after Europe's medicines regulator concluded it was "safe and effective".

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) reviewed the jab after 13 EU states suspended use of the vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots.

It found the jab was "not associated" with a higher risk of clots.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain said they would resume using the jab.

It is up to individual EU states to decide whether and when to re-start vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sweden said it needed a "few days" to decide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called on countries to continue using the vaccine, and is due to release the results of its own review into the vaccine's safety on Friday.

The agency's investigation focused on a small number of cases of unusual blood disorders. In particular, it was looking at cases of cerebral venous thrombosis - blood clots in the head.

Decisions to suspend use of the vaccine sparked concerns over the pace of the region's vaccination drive, which had already been affected by supply shortages.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new measures for his country on Thursday, saying the pandemic was clearly accelerating and a "third wave" of infections looked increasingly likely.

The EMA's expert committee on medicine safety, Mrs Cooke said, had found that "the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of... blood clots".

But the EMA, she added, could not rule out definitively a link between the vaccine and a "small number of cases of rare and unusual but very serious clotting disorders".

Therefore the committee has, she said, recommended raising awareness of these possible risks, making sure they are included in the product information. Additional investigations are being launched, Mrs Cooke added.

"If it was me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow," Mrs Cooke added. "But I would want to know that if anything happened to me after vaccination what I should do about it and that's what we're saying today."

Welcoming the review's endorsement of the vaccine as safe and effective, German Health Minister Jens Spahn added, "Doctors should be informed about the risk of venous thrombosis in women under 55 years of age, so that they in turn can inform patients."

Source: BBC
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19 Mar 2021
19 Mar 2021
The fall in numbers has definitely stalled, probably due to children back at school, but it may also be more apparent than real as it could also be due to significanly more testing now all school childrena re routinely tested a couple of times a week.

However, the deaths and number of hospitalisations is continuing to fall, probably due to the vaccinations - which was the whole point!
20 Mar 2021
Vaccinations (Cummulative)
20 Mar 2021
Talk in the news today parts of Europe heading for a third wave and travel to Europe might be banned this summer. Luckily we have nothing booked yet, but very disappointing news.
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21 Mar 2021
21 Mar 2021
From today's Guardian:
The UK’s Covid-19 statistics remain encouraging despite continuing rows over vaccine deliveries in Europe. Admissions to hospital and daily deaths from the disease continue to decline with numbers in the latter category now down to double digits while the former have dropped to around a 10th of their total two months ago.

However, one other category – numbers of new diagnoses a day – has reached a plateau with cases, having plunged from 60,000, stabilising at around 5,000 to 6,000. So why has this figure apparently stalled while deaths and hospitalisations continue to decline?

The reason is straightforward, say scientists. The vaccine has been targeted so that the most vulnerable – the elderly in particular – were given jabs before others and this is now having an impact on deaths and hospital admissions.

“Because the vaccine has had a very high uptake in the age groups which are most likely to go to hospital or to die, then we would expect – even if the number of infections stayed the same – hospitalisations and deaths to fall,” said Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London.

Those who are vulnerable – mainly because of their advanced age – are being protected by vaccines and so deaths and hospital admissions are declining. Younger people – who have yet to be vaccinated but who are thought to be responsible for most transmission – are continuing to spread the virus, though this transmission is being limited by lockdown. “Now that the schools have reopened, we could see a rise in case numbers – as was seen in Israel,” added Riley. “When they opened up after their vaccination programme was well under way, they did have a little upswing in cases and hospitalisations but it was very short lived. Very quickly it started to go down again. So at the moment, the data from Israel looks encouraging.” However, Riley warned that new variants might alter the position in the UK and trigger some rises in case numbers. “On the other hand, the data in the UK since Christmas is positive. It is looking very good at the moment but we will have to keep on monitoring cases, on a regional basis, to continue to check for the appearance and possible spread of new variants.”

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22 Mar 2021
22 Mar 2021
deaths at a record low this year but then Sunday's figure is normally low because of reporting delays. Lower than last Sunday though.

Bickerign with the EU over exports from Holland to UK could slow down vaccination program in April.
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23 Mar 2021
23 Mar 2021
25 Mar 2021
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24 Mar 2021
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25 Mar 2021
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26 Mar 2021
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27 Mar 2021
Boris Johnson is now backpeddalling furiously over mooted plans to allow pub landlords to exclude people without a Covid vaccination certifical or proof of a negative test.

PM seeks to calm pubs entry row, suggesting checks would have to wait until mid-summer

Sky News has broadcast its interview with Boris Johnson this morning, and in it Johnson sounded like a politician in backpedaling mode, anxious to calm the controversy generated by what he told the liaison committee yesterday.

First, he stressed that “no decisions have been taken at all” about whether pubs will be allowed to exclude customers without Covid-status certificates.

And, second, he also implied that any Covid-status certification system for pubs and other venues would not come in come anyway until mid-summer.

When asked to confirm that the government was considering limiting access to pubs to people either with a vaccine certificate, or a negative test result, after 17 May, Johnson replied:
All sorts of things are being considered. I really think it’s a bit premature to start talking about that. What we want to do is roll out the vaccine programme and see what that builds in terms of general resistance to the virus.
But he said he did think there would be a role for certification.

Johnson said the taskforce looking at this issue would report either on 5 April or 12 April.

When asked if the government could end up just using vaccine certification for foreign travel, Johnson said:
I think we need to think carefully about the issue. As I’ve said before there are lots of difficult issues because there are some people who, for medical reasons, can’t get a vaccination, pregnant women can’t get a vaccination at the moment. You’ve got to be careful about how you do this.

And you might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheming - even if you wanted such a thing - in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine.
The government is committed to ensuring that all adults in England have been offered a first dose of vaccine by the end of July. So Johnson’s comment implies that any such scheme along these lines would not start until mid-summer.

Source: Guardian
The goverment recently (22 Mar) set out the legal footing for the lifting of restrictions under the Coronavirus Act:

Press release

Legal footing for national unlocking set out ahead of vote

The government has set out regulations that will pave the way to the easing of all restrictions from 21 June.

  • New ‘roadmap regulations’ set out today before next phase of easements take place on 29 March
  • One-year review of Coronavirus Act proposes a raft of measures to expire or suspend. Measures to continue are essential and proportionate – to deliver the roadmap and maintain the necessary tools to continue to fight this virus and support families and the economy through it
  • Comes ahead of Parliament vote on both the roadmap and Coronavirus Act on Thursday 25 March
The government has today set out regulations which will pave the way to the easing of all restrictions from 21 June, and plans proposals to maintain support for the most vulnerable, businesses and public services.

Government support packages such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme have been rapidly rolled out under the Coronavirus Act, providing income for many families and a life-line to thousands of businesses throughout the pandemic.

Thanks to the extraordinary success of the UK’s historic vaccination programme, with over half of all adults now vaccinated, and the commitment of the public in playing their part, infection and hospitalisation rates have fallen significantly.

The regulations set out today mean from 29 March outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed including in private gardens.

The government has been clear that the roadmap out of lockdown is cautious, but irreversible. It sets out which measures must continue in order to protect the hard-won progress and ensure the nation can meet the 4 tests which will allow further unlocking to take place. A full review will be conducted in advance of moving to step 2 of the roadmap which will be 12 April.

Alongside the roadmap regulations, the government has today published a review of the Coronavirus Act ahead of a vote in Parliament, which sets out 15 measures which will be expired or suspended after Easter recess as they are no longer essential to the national response to COVID-19.

It explains which measures of the Act will be retained and how they will help to support businesses and individuals, shore up capacity in the health and care service and ensure delivery of essential public services.

The Act ensured the NHS had the capacity to deal with the peak of the virus by allowing the temporary registration of nurses and other healthcare professionals. It provided courts with the ability to use video technology and it allowed the government to put in place support packages such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which have provided a source of income for families and a lifeline for many businesses. It has also enabled businesses to access loan schemes, which have provided over £72 billion of support to businesses with over 1.5 million loans approved.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
We are today setting out the legal foundations which, if agreed by Parliament, will deliver the roadmap out of lockdown. These measures have been vital to reducing infections, hospital admissions and deaths across the country, and thanks to people’s commitment and support, we have made strong progress. We are rightly ending as many national measures as safely as possible, while maintaining those which remain necessary and proportionate to help reduce and control infections further as we cautiously but irreversibly ease restrictions and our historic vaccination programme continues apace.
The regulations laid today will be voted on by Parliament this Thursday, and if approved, will replace the ‘all tiers’ regulations which were made to enact the tier system at the end of last year.

The temporary measures within the Coronavirus Act require a renewal vote every 6 months as part of the government’s commitment to properly scrutinising coronavirus legislation. The powers in the Act have been thoroughly reviewed and those that are no longer necessary will be expired, and only the most important and proportionate measures will be maintained.

Keeping the Act in place will continue to provide important support to individuals, businesses and allow essential public services to function. The Act enables the furlough scheme, virtual court hearings and the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to continue as long as they are needed, to support those most in need during this challenging time.

When this legislation was brought to Parliament, the government was clear that it would only retain these powers for as long as necessary to allow us to respond to the pandemic effectively. Because of the welcome progress in our fight against this virus, the government is now able to expire and suspend a raft of measures within the Act.

While the vote will provide the legal basis for the act to remain in place for a further 6 months, the entire Act and all its provisions are reviewed in a report laid every 2 months. The roadmap regulations must also undergo statutory review every 35 days.

Background information

A total of 12 provisions will be removed completely from the Coronavirus Act. This is in addition to the mental health powers that were removed in December for England:
  • Sections 8 to 9 (applies to UK): emergency volunteers. These provisions were intended to come into force should the delivery of health services be at risk as a result of the pandemic. Despite the significant workforce pressure in health and social care, other measures such as NHS Professionals, other agency and bank staff and the Bring Back Staff (BBS) scheme have been more appropriate to address the need for trained clinical staff. As such, these powers have not yet come into force
  • Section 15 (applies to England and Wales and will be expired for England): Care Act easements (DHSC). Some duties to local authorities are relaxed under this section, allowing them to streamline assessment and charge for care retrospectively. There is strong stakeholder support to remove this provision. Eight local authorities in England have used the powers but the power has not been used since 29 June 2020
  • Section 24 (applies to UK) (Home Office): extension of time limits for retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles, allowing them to be held for an additional 6 months beyond normal deadlines. This power cannot be extended beyond the point the regulations expire in March without primary legislation.
  • Sections 25 to 29 (applies to UK) (Defra): requiring information from businesses and persons involved in the food supply chain. Gives the power to require information such as food supply disruption if there is refusal to provide it voluntarily. The information has been provided voluntarily and is not needed
  • Section 71 (applies to UK) (HMT): signatures of Treasury Commissioners; allows a single Commissioner of HMT to sign instruments and act on behalf of Commissioners, instead of requiring a signature from all Commissioners.
  • Section 79 (applies to England) (MHCLG): extension of Business Improvement Districts (BID) arrangements. BIDs, local business partnerships established by voting, have now successfully completed ballots and 43 are due to introduce ballots before the expiry in March 2021
  • Section 84 (applies to England) (MHCLG): postponement of General Synod elections. Allows the Queen to postpone the dissolution of the General Synod of the Church of England and so to postpone elections to the General Synod
In addition, the following 3 provisions will also be suspended:
  • Section 22 (applies to UK): appointment of temporary Judicial Commissioners (JCs)
  • Section 23 (applies to UK): time limits in relation to, for example, urgent warrants under Investigatory Powers Act
  • Section 58/schedule 2, part 2 (applies to UK and will be suspended in England): allows directions to be issued under part 2 if it was believed death management was not being organised correctly
Coronavirus Act: one-year report The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021

26 Mar 2021
A slight rise in new cases again today but the deaths and hospitalisations figures are still falling - because of the vaccine?

Now still a lot about a so-called Covid passport, verifying vaccination to give access to pibs, and maybe foreign travel. I don't have any objection to this as many countries already need evidence of vaccinations against, eg., yellow fever.

Still some bickering over supplies of Oxford AZ vaccine with EU still mooting a ban on exports. Alos many their-world countries not getting supplies. The danger is that these countries will act as breeding grounds for new variants.
27 Mar 2021
New cases seem to have resumed their downeard trend today with <5000 new cases. Howver the 7-day figure is up by 4%. Deaths and hospitalisations are also well down.

Over 29 million adults now vaccinated with 1st dose; over 3 million with 2nd dose.

Being reported that a third, booster doses, will be given to over 80's and vulnerable people starting in September, to include updates for new varients. Looks like this might become an anual booster, like the flu vaccine.
28 Mar 2021
New cases were below 4000, the lowest since 17 Sep 2020. Deaths at 19 (Weekend figures are always lower) was significantly down on 7 days earlier (33) and the number of patients in hospital fell by almost 300 in the previous 24 hours. All-in-all showing the significant impact of the vaccines.
To be continued...

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