(Update reposted from Tim Loughton MP)
I am sure we were all saddened to hear the news about the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday and whilst political campaigning for the upcoming local elections has been suspended, the vaccination effort has continued apace.
Over 32m people in the UK have now received a first dose and there has been a rapid acceleration in the numbers who have had a second dose to over 6.5m or over 12% of the adult population. Of those about 58% are AstraZeneca jabs and 42% Pfizer. The impact of that continues to be reflected in the infection figures. There were 3150 new cases reported yesterday which represents a fall of 32.2% on last week. There are 3005 people in hospital which is 25.3% down on the week whilst the rolling average for the number of deaths is down to 32%, a fall of 25.8% compared with a week ago.
It has been calculated that for every 3500 vaccinations in the priority cohorts, 1 life has been saved.
Despite the concerns over possible side effects from the AZ vaccine there has been no marked reduction in vaccination rates with over 99.4% of second vaccinations now being taken up. It is important to point out that there is still no clear scientific link between the AZ vaccine and the extremely rare cases of clotting. Because the cases have tended to appear in younger people where the COVID risk is greatly diminished the decision was taken to provide alternative vaccines to under 30’s when their time comes to be vaccinated. This is a highly precautionary measure and routinely different flu vaccines will be allocated to different groups of people depending on risk assessments, so this is not new.
For those who may have any concerns about having their second AZ vaccination apparently all cases across Europe have occurred after the first dose so if you have not been affected after your first jab it is highly unlikely that anything serious will happen after your second. The chance of a serious reaction is still put at something like 4 in a million which compares with 1 in 10,000 affected by the contraceptive pill let alone many other conditions linked to blood clots. There have also been incidents of clotting for people who have had the Pfizer jab but for some reason all the fuss has concentrated on the AZ variety.
The third approved vaccine from Moderna has already started to come on stream and will be available in larger quantities from May which will more than cover any shortfall from AZ. Stocks on AZ and Pfizer will pick up again in the second half of April until which vaccination centres have been told to continue to work on those Cohort 1-9 stragglers who remain at higher risk. It is likely that Cohort 10 of 40-49-year olds will get underway soon after April 15th.
There has been some confusion over advice to vaccination centres after last week’s announcement that people living in the same household as someone who is at higher risk because they are on certain immune-suppressing drugs. Those people can now book an appointment with the local vaccination centres and should do so via their own GP. They should use the letters sent to the household member with the condition as proof that they now qualify. At the moment this cannot be done online for the mass vaccination centres.
Encouragingly it looks as though foreign variants continue to be rare in the UK. To put that into perspective recently over 7 days there were 17,513 cases of the so-called Kent variant, against just 57 South African variant and Brazilian 5. Other versions of the vaccine still being developed are likely to be even more flexible in being able to adapt to new strains as they inevitably appear.
A decision on how safe the vaccine is assessed to be for pregnant women is likely to be made next week as obviously that is becoming more of an issue as younger women will now stat being called for the jab. At the moment the approved vaccines are licenced for use in the first 2 trimesters and for breast-feeding mothers without any greater risk for mums or their babies.
On 5 April, the government announced everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free, COVID-19 lateral flow test twice a week from this week. The expanded regular testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered through:
- A home ordering service;
- Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home;
- Community testing, offered by councils;
- Collection at a local test site during specific test collection time windows;
- Testing on-site at schools and colleges, and
- A new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to book a test online or by calling 119.
Next week Ramadan is due to begin, and the NHS wants to reassure all those who will be marking the holy month that they can still receive their vaccination. The British Islamic Medical Association has provided a statement to assure all that receiving the vaccine does not invalidate the fast and people shouldn’t delay receiving their vaccination. Clinical leaders have also spoken out to reassure people about receiving their vaccination.
I have had a lot of correspondence on the subject of ‘Vaccination passports’ and so I have written a lengthy piece on my Facebook page.
- Across Sussex some 1,064,000 vaccinations have now been administered as vaccination hubs continue to focus on the top 9 priority Cohorts and second doses. A couple of weeks’ ago I reported that there were still 250,000 in these higher risk groups yet to be vaccinated across Sussex. That figure has now fallen to an estimated 118,000 and represents a take-up level of over 87% over the 9 priority Cohorts combined. Clearly we are starting to see diminishing returns for that effort and a constituent has suggested to me that everyone could ring up or email 20 of their friends and family to make sure they have been jabbed.
- As soon as we have confirmation that the vaccine supply has been stepped up again Cohort 10 of 40-49-year olds will become eligible. That amounts to some 150,000 people across Sussex. That could be speeded up if the Brighton Centre is approved next week as one of only 2 mass vaccination centres in the South-East to use the new Moderna vaccine.
- The local vaccination hubs and the CCG have been undertaking second dose visits to care homes and housebound patients and will continue to do so over the next 2 weeks. They have also included a number of rough sleepers in Brighton and other towns. As at 6 April 2021, 84 care homes in Sussex had received a second dose visit from the vaccination teams from GP-led services and Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
- The national online booking system is open for all the mass vaccination centres in Sussex including Brighton for all the 9 priority Cohorts and there is currently good availability of appointments next week.
- Latest COVID infection rates for Adur were little changed at 17 per 100,000 people and for Worthing they have fallen even lower to 14 against the England average of 20.
I hope everyone has got their haircuts booked for next week followed by a drink in a local pub garden. I know I have.