UK COVID-19 Update: Jabs for 30s, 'Vaccine Failure', GPs' 16 Page Open Letter

Tim Locke

April 30, 2021

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

Jabs for 30s

People aged 30-34 are being offered COVID jabs in Northern Ireland with limited availability.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Uptake is very encouraging and I’m pleased that we are moving so quickly through the cohorts. We have a limited number of slots that we can now offer to those aged 30 to 34, so if you’re eligible I would urge you to step forward and take the opportunity to get the jab."

Meanwhile in England, people aged 40 and over are now being invited to book COVID jabs as the programme moves down the age groups. The week started with bookings opened to 44-year-olds. NHS England said it was vaccinating in line with guidance from the JCVI "as supply allows".

As of Wednesday, 34 million UK first vaccine doses had been given, and 14 million second doses.

In other vaccine news:

  • Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show positive sentiment towards vaccination has stayed high with 94% of adults either receiving a vaccine or saying they would accept an offer of vaccination.

  • AstraZeneca reported its vaccine brought in $275 million in first-quarter sales of 68 million doses.

  • Pfizer and BioNTech have asked the EU to approve the firms' vaccine for use in 12-15 year olds, citing results of a study of 2000 adolescents.

Prior Infection and First Jabs

A single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine boosts protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants in people previously infected, an Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, and University College London study published in Science found.

After a first jab, prior infection was associated with a boosted T cell, B cell, and neutralising antibody response to give effective protection against SARS-CoV-2, as well as the UK/Kent and South Africa variants.

Study lead, Rosemary Boyton, professor of immunology and respiratory medicine at Imperial, said: "Our findings show that people who have had their first dose of vaccine, and who have not previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, are not fully protected against the circulating variants of concern. This study highlights the importance of getting second doses of the vaccine rolled out to protect the population."

Clots Data

The MHRA published the latest side effect data that show 209 cases of blood clots with low platelet counts in people who'd had the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, and 41 deaths as of 21 April.

There have been 120 reports and 24 fatalities in women, and 89 reports and 17 fatalities in men.

Cases were also broken down by age for the first time.

Age range (years)      

Number of reports      

Number of fatal reports

18-29

23

6

30-39

27

8

40-49

30

4

50-59

59

12

60-69

31

6

70-79

20

3

80-89

5

2

90-99

1

0

Unknown

11

0

 

The regulator said the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people. Under-30s are now offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Virus Variant Data

Public Health England (PHE) said two new virus 'variants under investigation' VUI-21APR-02 and VUI-21APR-03 linked to the B.1.617/VUI-21APR-01 variant first found in India have been identified in England.

So far, 202 cases of one of the new variants have been reported, and five cases of the other variant, and the cases are "geographically dispersed".

PHE said in a statement: "All appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including additional contact tracing and targeted testing."

Infection Survey

ONS infection survey estimates for the week ending 24 April suggest:

  • Around 1 in 1010 people in England had COVID-19

  • Around 1 in 1570 people in Wales had COVID-19

  • Around 1 in 640 people in Scotland had COVID-19

  • Around 1 in 940 people in Northern Ireland had COVID-19

Sarah Crofts from ONS said: "We have come a long way since the beginning of the year, when we saw 20 times the level of infection we see now. The infection rate has continued to decrease across the UK and we are back to levels seen near the end of last summer."

The latest R number range for England is up slightly to 0.8 to 1.1, and the growth rate is -4% to -1% per day.

'Vaccine Failure'

A preprint study of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 who had previously been vaccinated showed some "vaccine failure", but researchers said that was not unexpected and that deaths occurred mainly in the oldest and most vulnerable.

The study used 'real world' ISARIC 4C/CO-CIN data from more than 52,000 patients admitted to hospital up to April 10.

The preliminary research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that COVID vaccines took around 21 days to afford protection after a first dose.

For patients enrolled to ISARIC 4C/CO-CIN, 1 in 14 admitted to hospital had received a first dose of vaccine.

Most vaccinated hospitalised patients were infected with SARS-CoV-2 shortly before or around the time of vaccination, the data showed.

Calum Semple, professor in child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, and ISARIC 4C co-lead, said: "We're not saying that the vaccine doesn't work, we're saying that the vaccine does work. In fact, this is good evidence of it working, but there are some few failures, and when these failures do occur, sadly, people die, but that's because they're elderly and frail."

The study was not able to provide evidence on the effects of immunity from a second vaccine dose. Neither could it cast light on whether immunity wanes over time.

Public Inquiry

The King's Fund is the latest organisation to make the case for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

Chief Executive Richard Murray, said: "Now is the time to begin work on a public inquiry. The future course of COVID-19 remains uncertain and there is an ever-present risk of new diseases emerging. A thorough inquiry to ensure the country is ready to face future threats should not be shunted to the bottom of the Government’s to-do list."

On Wednesday, England's Deputy CMO, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing: "My views on the inquiry are, it's very important, but please not now. We are far too busy still engaged in cementing in the gains that we've made, and making sure that we don't have anything like the same kind of turbulence next winter as we had this winter."

Vaccine Passports

Nearly 1 in 5 unvaccinated people told researchers they'll feel resentful if they don't have a jab in time for their summer holidays.

Data came from the University of Bristol, King's College London, and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Dr Siobhan McAndrew, University of Bristol, said: "Some members of the public see vaccination as a social duty, while others are more concerned with direct personal benefits. Partly for that reason, there has been great policy interest in whether vaccination passports might encourage vaccine uptake. These findings indicate they may do so, as well as allowing the leisure, hospitality and travel industries to reopen more promptly. But we also have evidence of the challenges that may come with the passports – as significant proportions of the public fear they will be misused, including through curtailing civil liberties."

The Guido Fawkes website reported NHSX carried out "secret" COVID passport trials with 12 members of staff at Kettering General Hospital over 4 days earlier this month.

GP Practice Issues 16 Page Open Letter to Patients

Ivy Grove Surgery in Derbyshire has issued a 16 page open letter to patients explaining the impact of unprecedented demand that's "practically doubled" in recent months.

The letter is also critical of patients: "We have found that most patients actively chose to ignore all forms of self-care and that their first port of call is always the GP."

And: "We are finding that many people are presenting shopping lists of multiple problems to us."

The letter continues: "We do not just see our job as being here to fix you. But we will do all we can to help you fix yourself."

It was written, the doctors said, "Rather than simply saying 'it's sooooo busy, please stop bothering us."

More News

  • India reported another 386,452 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours and 3498 deaths.

  • England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been ordered to give more information about PPE contracts after a legal challenge by the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor.

  • Northern Ireland's latest lifting of lockdown took place today with shops, gyms, pubs, restaurants, and cafes in Northern Ireland reopening again, and up to 15 people from three households being allowed to meet in private gardens.

  • Wales confirmed more lockdown restrictions will be lifted on Monday, including the reopening of gyms, leisure centres, spas, and swimming pools.

  • A nightclub in Liverpool is opened this afternoon for an Events Research Programme (ERP) COVID-19 pilot event.

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

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