UK COVID-19 Update: Oxford Data on Dose Gaps & Transmission, No to 'Jab and Go'

Tim Locke

February 03, 2021

Editor's note, 3 February 2021: This article was updated to include today's daily data and information from a Downing Street briefing.

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

Oxford Data on Dose Gaps & Transmission

Experts have welcomed preprint data on the Oxford jab's 76% efficacy against symptomatic infection for 3 months after a single dose. This increases if the second dose is delayed, supporting the UK's rollout strategy.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told the Science Media Centre: "While these data should not be taken to say that all questions are answered, they certainly do not suggest that the JCVI advice on dose-spacing was in any way incorrect for this vaccine."

Dr David Matthews, reader in virology, University of Bristol, said: "This is excellent news and very much what was expected from what we know about other vaccines."

The paper also suggested the vaccine reduced transmission of infections, with a 67% reduction in positive swabs among those vaccinated in the UK arm of the trial.

Meanwhile France has followed Germany in restricting the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to under-65s, despite European approval for all over-18s. France cited a lack of data on older adults.

The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Professor Andrew Pollard, told the BBC that vaccines might still offer protection against severe disease even as virus variants evolve to continue transmission between people. "But that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease.

"The virus is much more about the virus being able to continue to survive, rather than trying to cause harm to us," he said.

He also said an updated version of the vaccine is being planned for deployment in the autumn.

Ten million people have now received their first dose of the COVID vaccine, England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted this afternoon, saying: "This is a hugely significant milestone in our national effort against this virus."

The second dose total is now 498,962.


UK Biobank research found that 99% of people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 retained antibodies to the virus for 3 months after infection, and 87.8% remained seropositive for 6 months.

However, Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank principal investigator, said: "We can't be sure that this provides a complete protection."

Infection Survey

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey suggests an estimated 1 in 7 people in England would have tested positive for antibodies in the 28 days up to 18 January 2021.

The highest percentage of antibody positivity was seen in London, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire and The Humber. The East of England, the South West, and the South East were below the national average for England.

  • In Wales the figure was 1 in 9

  • In Scotland the figure was 1 in 10

  • In Northern Ireland the figure was 1 in 11

In England and Scotland, over-80s had the highest percentage for antibodies. In Wales,  it was 16 to 24 year olds, and in Northern Ireland it was 25 to 69 year olds.

Sarah Crofts from ONS commented: "Our results are only just starting to see the effect of the UK vaccination programmes; we will be closely monitoring their impact in the coming months."

'Past the Peak'

In today's daily data another 19,202 UK positive tests were reported and 1322 deaths.

Another 2651 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital. The total is now 32,851, and 3638 ventilator beds are in use.

Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street briefing that the number of positive cases "are now going down steadily" and adding: "The number of people in hospital with COVID has now gone down from its peak, quite noticeably but...there are still a very large number of people in hospital, and more people than there were in the first peak in April last year. So this is still a very major problem but it is one that is heading the right way." 

Later he added: "I think that most of my colleagues think we are past the peak."

Prof Whitty was asked about the verbal attack he received in the street by someone saying he was "lying" about COVID-19. It was shared on social media and Downing Street called it "unacceptable".

"Young lads showing off occasionally happens," he said. "I didn't think anything of it frankly, I was very surprised it was picked up by the media at all as anything of any importance. 

"I'm sure he'll become a model citizen in due course and hopefully more like Captain Tom, who was the kind of person who I think much more exemplifies the spirit of the UK."

Staffing Pressures

Staffing pressures at Good Hope Hospital, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust were highlighted in a Care Quality Commission inspection report.

"During our inspection, we visited eight wards. All wards were working with a reduced number of staff across some shifts; some nurse-to-patient ratios were 1:17 at the time of our inspection," the report said.

"Deceased patients were not always transported from the wards in a timely manner. On ward eight, a patient had passed away at 6.45am, at 11.35am the patient still had not last offices completed or been transported from the ward due to low staffing levels. This was reported by several staff members and it caused them distress," the report continued.

The hospital has been given a 'requires improvement' rating after inspections on 2 and 9 December 2020.

The Trust said it was aware of the issues raised and was addressing them but also praised its "amazing staff" who were dealing with 450 COVID-19 inpatients at the time of the inspections.

Learning Disabilities

Care England called on the Government to prioritise everyone with a learning disability for vaccination.

Chief Executive, Professor Martin Green, said: "We hold that the Government should remove the arbitrary distinction between prioritising those with a severe or profound learning disability and those with a mild or moderate learning disability, and place all those with a learning disability in Priority Group 4. These vaccinations must be administered in the individual’s place of residence, as opposed to in vaccination hubs."

The group cited a Public Health England report on the first wave that found COVID-19 deaths among people with learning disabilities were up to six times higher than in the general population.

Fridge Blunder

The PA news agency reported that 450 vaccine doses had to be thrown away last month after a fridge was accidentally switched off in a vaccination centre at Montgomery Hall, Wath-upon-Dearne, Rotherham.

A Rotherham CCG spokesperson was quoted: "Following a power-related issue with the fridge at a vaccination service site, a number of Pfizer vaccine vials were compromised as a result of not being stored at the required temperature overnight, which meant staff were unable to administer that batch of vaccines."

Alternative supplies were obtained to avoid appointments being cancelled.

Data Honour

A data and analytics industry award has gone to a key figure at NHS England.

Ming Tang, managing director of data and analytics, has been named as the most influential person in data and analytics in the 2021 edition of the DataIQ 100.

The top 10 also included people from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and AstraZeneca.

David Reed from DataIQ said: "What became clear is that data is now a frontline tool for all types of organisations, especially when dealing with market disruption. Our 2021 list reflects the scale and pace of this change and the individuals who are responding to it."


Having IBD is not a contraindication for coronavirus vaccination, according to a position statement from the British Society of Gastroenterology Inflammatory Bowel Disease section and IBD Clinical Research Group.  

"The risks of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination are anticipated to be very low, and we strongly support SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with IBD. Based on data from previous studies with other vaccines, there are conceptual concerns that protective immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination may be diminished in some patients with IBD, such as those taking anti-TNF drugs. However, the benefits of vaccination, even in patients treated with anti-TNF drugs, are likely to outweigh these theoretical concerns," the statement said.

Olympic 'Playbook'

The International Olympic Committee has published a 'playbook' with guidance for keeping athletes safe if the postponed Tokyo games go ahead this summer.

Masks have to be worn at all times "except when eating and sleeping".

Paralympic wheelchair users are urged to "regularly disinfect the relevant surfaces with sanitising wipes".

If fans are allowed into venues they can support athletes "by clapping and not singing or chanting".

No to 'Jab and Go'

Ryanair's 'Jab and Go' holiday ads have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being "irresponsible".

Ryanair said the ads were meant to be "uplifting".

ASA said: "We told Ryanair DAC to ensure their ads did not mislead viewers about the impact that COVID-19 vaccines would have on their ability to travel abroad during Easter and summer 2021, and to ensure their ads did not encourage irresponsible behaviour."

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


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