As a further 533 people lost their lives in the last 24 hours, the ongoing mass vaccination campaign is an important milestone in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, but restrictions will have to continue for some months until we get the final ‘all clear’, Dr Joe Pajak writes.

First published in December 2020.

‘Vaccine Rollout’, on 8 December 2020, was an important milestone in OUR fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the day the NHS launched the biggest vaccination programme in our history – a programme which will continue for many months to come, and potentially become an annual event. We now need to wait for our own local NHS organisations to contact us when it is our turn to be vaccinated.

This is a wonderful development. An example of all that is best in international collaboration and global science. However, our excitement needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. We are not there yet; restrictions must continue for some months, until we get the ‘all clear’. At the same time, the search for new vaccines should continue, while tracking thoroughly the efficacy, and any side-effects, of those approved at this stage of the pandemic.

Vaccine safety

The media is awash with information about adverse reactions experienced by two people on the first day of rollout. However, most, if not all drugs, can potentially affect a small number of people adversely. The information leaflets provided with prescription medicines, and ‘over the counter remedies’, provide ample evidence of this fact. So, an adverse reaction, whilst a serious concern for those affected, is not a reason on its own, to stop the vaccine rollout. It is, though, a reason to provide as much detail as possible: to ensure public confidence, to protect those who may be susceptible to any specific vaccine, and to promote the maximum uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines – for the benefit of all.

As Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, said, “as is common with new vaccines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination, after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday.”

The results, and the data, behind the development of all of the Covid-19 vaccines will be of vital importance. They are all being developed at a swift pace, and though the world is desperate for a vaccine that provides a solution, it must be the right solution, based on the right scientific assessments about their efficacy. The research data for the Oxford vaccine have now been independently verified in one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet. And, as reported yesterday, this “safe and efficacious vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), if deployed with high coverage, could contribute to the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. The development of safe, effective, affordable, and deployable vaccines against COVID-19 remains paramount in solving the pandemic crisis and re-establishing normality. The positive results presented here support regulatory submissions for conditional or emergency use of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.”

The intense focus on all of the vaccines is understandable, as they appear at the moment to be our only positive way through the pandemic. Other aspects of the vaccine rollout, that deserve sensible and informed debates, include these questions that are now being raised more openly:

  1. How long is any particular vaccine going to provide protection from infection from Covid-19?
  2. Does the vaccine prevent transmission of the virus from someone who has received the vaccine but may still be infected with the virus?

Important questions, that need informed discussion, and all the more reason to hold firm on all the restrictions to prevent transmission across the UK.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, meanwhile, there isn’t enough information yet about whether the two-shot regimen stems spread, a review by FDA staff released on Tuesday concluded. There is a distinct possibility that if the shots don’t work as well in asymptomatic cases but public-health precautions are relaxed, that “could result in significant continued transmission,” the report concluded.

Today’s data

Meanwhile, today’s data reinforce the view that we still have a long way to go to get to the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. The stark facts being that today, 314 days after the first case was reported in the UK, 1,766,818 further cases have been reported, together with 62,566 deaths. However, these data include only those who have died within 28 days of testing positive; other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher: 73,125 being reported today as “the total number of deaths of people whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19 as one of the causes, registered up to Friday, 27 November 2020.”

The data also reports that a further 533 people lost their lives in the last 24 hours in the UK; while the number of deaths in the last 14 days is at 6,053. This is the 16th day in a row that the 14-day total number of deaths has exceeded 6,000.

Note: The data for deaths attributed to Covid-19, each following a reported positive test result for Covid-19 within 28 days of their death.

Today’s Government data also indicates there have been 211,099 new cases reported in the past 14 days, 26% fewer than the 14-day figures reported on 26 November. Today’s trendline chart, and headline UK Covid-19 data, give a picture of the ‘journey’ thus far.

UK Covid-19 headline data, reported on 9 December 2020:

  • 16,578 positive tests
  • 533 more deaths in the last 24 hours
  • 1,459 hospital admissions (reported as of 03/12)
  • 15,254 hospital in-patients (reported as of 07/12)
  • 1,272 patients on ventilation beds (reported as of 09/12)
  • 211,099 new cases reported in the last 14 days according to government data

Data source:

Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 9 December 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

Creative Commons License
(Cover: Pexels. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)