UK COVID-19 Update: Autumn Booster Jabs, ICU Admissions Rise, Verbal Abuse for GP Surgeries

Peter Russell

June 30, 2021

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

Autumn Booster Jabs

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that any potential booster programme should be offered in 2 stages from September, alongside flu vaccination.

It should begin with those most at risk from serious disease, including older adults and frontline health and social care workers. Stage 2 includes over-50s, and younger adults in high-risk groups.

JCVI COVID-19 Chair, Professor Wei Shen Lim, said in a statement: "The primary objective of any potential COVID-19 booster vaccine programme should be to reduce serious disease, including death.

"The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third COVID-19 vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS ahead of winter. Almost all these people would also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and are strongly advised to have the flu vaccine.

"We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines. Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially."

Intensive Care Numbers Rise

Downing Street has insisted that the NHS is prepared for an increase in admissions of COVID-19 patients to intensive care. 

It comes as new figures showed the number of COVID patients on hospital ventilators has climbed to its highest level in weeks.

Latest figures showed there were 297 people in mechanical ventilation beds in the UK, as of Monday June 28, compared with 124 around the same point in May.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the increase had been anticipated and that the country remained in a "good position" to follow the roadmap out of lockdown later this month.
 

Long COVID

Inconsistencies in recording cases of long COVID in primary care could be hampering efforts to identify and manage the condition, a study concluded.

Last week, a preprint from the REACT 2 study suggested that up to two million adults in England could have been affected by the condition.

However, researchers at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, found only 23,273 cases ever formally recorded between February 2020 and April 2021, in a sample covering 96% of the population in England.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice , suggested several possible reasons for the discrepancy, including patients not yet presenting to primary care with long COVID, different diagnostic thresholds or criteria for a diagnosis, and how diagnoses are being recorded in IT systems.

Dr Ben Goldacre from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, who led the research, said: "We were very surprised to see almost a hundred-fold difference in prevalence between population survey estimates and formally recorded diagnoses for the same condition.

"Good data on long COVID will be crucial for research into the prevalence of long COVID, its causes and consequences, and to plan services effectively."

Infection Survey

The percentage of the population testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the UK continued to be low for those in patient-facing healthcare job roles but had increased in those not in patient-facing healthcare job roles.

The findings were a re-analysis of the latest infection survey by the Office for National Statistics which found that the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to increase in the week ending June 19.

The latest analysis found that the number of socially distanced and physical contacts that adults and school-age children reported with people outside their household had increased since March 2021 up to June 14 across the UK.

This month, 61% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 with a strong positive test reported symptoms within 35 days of the test in the UK.

The most commonly reported symptoms among people testing positive for COVID were cough, fatigue, and headache.

Kara Steel, senior statistician for the COVID-19 Infection survey, said: "Although infection rates remain low in people in patient-facing jobs within healthcare, we are seeing an increase in those in non-patient-facing healthcare job roles."

Verbal Abuse Over Vaccines Aimed at Primary Care Staff

Three-quarters of GP surgeries had staff who were verbally abused by patients during the COVID vaccination programme, according to a poll.

The survey by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) suggested that eligibility for a vaccine, prioritisation, and vaccine safety were among the main reasons.

Shouting, swearing, threats to complain, and emotional manipulation were among incidents mentioned by the 222 GPs, nurses, and practice managers who took part. One GP said a patient threatened to kill themselves if they were denied a first vaccine dose ahead of schedule.

The survey also found that 52% of respondents had witnessed threats of physical abuse, including notes written and posted through the door or into a prescription box that caused alarm to staff.

One anonymous respondent to the poll said: "We have been blamed for anything that went wrong in the programme." Another commented: "We have come a long way from everyone clapping on the doorstep."

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw from the MPS said it was "shocking and appalling that our frontline workers have been facing this sort of abuse", particularly at a time when "GPs are mentally and physically exhausted".

Health Inequalities

Greater Manchester had a 25% higher mortality rate from COVID-19 than the rest of England in the 13 months to March this year, a report found.

The study by the UCL Institute of Health Equity (IHE) found that life expectancy fell in 2020 by 1.6 years for men, and 1.2 years for women, in the North West of England compared to 1.3 years and 0.9 years, respectively, across the rest of the country.

The analysis, Build Back Fairer in Greater Manchester: Health Equity and Dignified Lives, was commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The IHE’s Director, Prof Sir Michael Marmot, said if the Government was serious about levelling up health inequities, equity of health and wellbeing must be at the heart of government and business strategy, rather than narrow economic goals.

A framework for action called for more resources directed at education, employment, and housing.

In Other News…

  • The NHS Confederation has appealed to the Government not to let the pandemic distract from publishing its Health and Care Bill before Parliament goes into summer recess. In a letter to England's new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, the Confederation said that any delays beyond mid-July would mean that key aspects of the reforms would not be ready before integrated care systems are timetabled to become statutory bodies in April 2022.

  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs that school bubbles in England could be abandoned by the start of the autumn term. Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Williamson said: "I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society, especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe over the last 18 months."

  • Seven Australian cities have entered lockdown because of the spread of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant. Officials reported a rise in cases on Wednesday, to more than 200 cases, the BBC reported. More than 12 million people have been told to stay at home in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Townsville, and the Gold Coast.

  • Despite euphoric scenes at Wembley last night when England beat Germany 2-0, England fans have been warned not to head to Italy for Saturday's Euro 2020 quarter-final with Ukraine. Fans intending to travel to Rome would face 5 days of quarantine, which would mean they could not enter the stadium.

  • Malta said it will not accept the NHS app as proof of COVID vaccination from UK travellers entering the country. From Wednesday, travellers from the UK aged 12 and older are only permitted to enter Malta if they have had both doses of a COVID vaccine. However, the authorities in Malta said they will only accept printed letters sent by the NHS as proof of vaccination status. A number of other holiday destinations, including the Balearic Islands, have been added to the UK's 'green list', although each have their own rules for UK travellers.

  • A website advertisement for a facemask that stated it could kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been banned. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that claims by Evaq that the mask had been "independently proven to kill COVID-19 on contact" were among several misleading statements made by the company in its ads.

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

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