UK COVID-19 Update: Allergic Reactions to Jab, Healthcare Workers' Risk

Tim Locke

December 09, 2020

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Allergic Reactions to Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine

The MHRA has issued a warning that people who have a history of anaphylactoid reactions should not currently receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The incidents relate to two healthcare workers who suffered allergic reactions after having the vaccine yesterday but who have since recovered.

Pfizer UK said in a statement: "We have been advised by MHRA of two yellow card reports that may be associated with allergic reaction due to administration of the COVID-19 BNT162b2 vaccine.

"As a precautionary measure, the MHRA has issued temporary guidance to the NHS while it conducts an investigation in order to fully understand each case and its causes.  Pfizer and BioNTech are supporting the MHRA in the investigation.

"In the pivotal phase 3 clinical trial, this vaccine was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns reported by the independent Data Monitoring Committee.  The trial has enrolled over 44,000 participants to date, over 42,000 of whom have received a second vaccination."

Data released by the US FDA show a small number of allergic reactions reported in both the vaccine and placebo trial groups (0.63% and 0.51%).

People in UK 'Most Willing to Have Jab'

A global survey by Imperial College London and YouGov found people in the UK most likely to say they'd have a COVID-19 jab.

The UK was first with 65% saying they'd have a jab next year, and France was last at 35%.

People in the UK were also among those least likely to be worried about side effects (31%).

Polling was done with around 1000 participants each in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the UK 11 to 24 November before MHRA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Healthcare Workers' Risk

Healthcare workers are seven times more likely to have severe COVID-19 infection than those in non-essential jobs, according to University of Glasgow observational research published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The study used UK Biobank data, COVID-19 test results, and deaths recorded March-July.

Further analysis showed medical support staff were nearly nine times as likely to develop severe disease, social care nearly 2.5 times as likely, while transport workers were twice as likely to do so.

Ethnicity played a role with Black and Asian essential workers more than eight times as likely to have severe infection.

The authors conclude: "Our findings reinforce the need for adequate health and safety arrangements and provision of PPE for essential workers, especially in the health and social care sectors. The health and wellbeing of essential workers is critical to limiting the spread and managing the burden of global pandemics."

Wales Shortens Self-isolation

Self-isolation after possible contact with an infected person is being reduced to 10 days from 14 in Wales from tomorrow.

The 10 day rule also applies to people returning from non-exempt international destinations.

A Welsh Government statement said the decision was based on the latest evidence on the likelihood of being infectious after 10 days.

Reopening Schools

The partial reopening of schools and nurseries in England in June and July did not lead to a significant rise in cases, according to a study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Of 55 outbreaks identified, 27 were in primary schools, 16 in nurseries, seven in secondary schools, and five in mixed-age schools.

Infection rates were higher in staff than students, mostly from transmission between staff.

Article author, Dr Shamez Ladhani, Public Health England, commented: "SARS-CoV2 infections and outbreaks were uncommon in educational settings after they reopened during the summer term. The strong correlation with rates in the wider community also emphasises the importance of controlling transmission outside the school gates to protect educational settings. This is consistent with studies that have been conducted since this paper was completed in August, and forthcoming PHE research into transmission in schools during the autumn term."

Kids' Depression

Depressive symptoms in 7-12 years olds rose significantly under lockdown, according to University of Cambridge observational research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Lockdown, school closures, social distancing, and stretched child mental health services are thought to have been factors.

On average the study suggested that for any child there was around a 70% chance of depressive symptoms worsening.

Data came from the Resilience in Education and Development (RED) study of children in the East of England.

Commenting, Dr Karen Street, paediatric consultant and mental health lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "This study reports what many paediatricians have observed--while children rarely become ill with COVID-19, they have been significantly affected by the measures taken to reduce transmission of the virus."

She added: "While we hope that for many children a return to normality will see a 'rebound' in their emotional wellbeing, we also know that the socioeconomic impact of lockdown for many families will be ongoing for many years, and that this will have secondary negative effects on the mental health of children."

Nursing Shortages

The Health Foundation highlights a shortage of nurses in key areas in a new report.

Despite increases in nurse numbers overall, gaps remain in community nursing, mental health, and learning disability services.

Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation director of Research and REAL Centre, commented: "Nine months into the pandemic, the nursing workforce is under incredible strain. One in 10 nursing posts are vacant, and absence rates remain high. Our analysis shows that although nursing numbers are going up overall, in some areas they are lower than they were 10 years ago. This is hugely concerning as we are now in a situation where the number of people waiting for routine elective care exceeds four million and there is growing demand for mental health services."

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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