Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Decisive use of AstraZeneca vaccine may have spared UK from Omicron crisis hitting Europe

Immunity for AstraZenica "can last for life in some cases.”

Britain’s relatively low recent death toll from Covid compared to Europe may be a result of earlier use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to vaccinate the most vulnerable, according to the nation’s former vaccine tsar.

Dr Clive Dix, former chairman of the Vaccine Task Force, told The Telegraph that he believed the AstraZeneca jabs offered more robust, long-term protection against severe disease and death than RNA-based alternatives made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Britain’s Covid death rate has been relatively flat for several months, and there has not been a noticeable surge in Covid deaths due to omicron.

However, many European countries have recently seen steadily increasing death rates and have more Covid deaths on a like-for-like basis than the UK.

Figures from Our World in Data, a website run by the University of Oxford, shows the UK has 1.7 daily deaths from Covid per million people. In comparison, the EU as a whole has almost four.

“If you look across Europe, with the rise in cases, there's also a corresponding lagged rise in deaths, but not in the UK, and we have to understand that,” said Dr Dix.

“I personally believe that's because most of our vulnerable people were given the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Dr Dix said.

The key, he says, is that although the RNA jabs produce a more obvious and rapid jump in antibody levels in lab tests, other vaccines may be better at priming another part of the immune system: cellular immunity.

Cellular immunity includes various forms of T cells, including those that destroy infected cells, and also memory cells, ensuring a person can fight off an infection several years after they are first exposed to it. They are slower to react than antibodies and do not prevent infection, but do halt the pathogen in its tracks, making it harder for the virus to cause damage.

“We’ve seen early data that the Oxford jab produces a very durable cellular response and if you’ve got a durable cellular immunity response then they can last for a long time. It can last for life in some cases.” he said.

The only notable difference, he said, between the UK and Europe’s vaccine rollout was the approach to the AstraZeneca jab.

While Britain used its ample stock to rapidly inoculate the oldest and most vulnerable people, officials on the continent besmirched the vaccine’s reputation and dragged their heels on its approval, opting instead to wait for the Pfizer vaccine.

MRNA vaccines like those made by Pfizer are based solely on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and produce highly specific antibodies. But AstraZeneca, and other jabs like those made by Novavax and Valneva, used a more well-rounded approach, said Dr Dix.

“We know that with adenoviral vector vaccines and adjuvanted proteins you get a much broader cellular response and I think we need to look at all that data across all the vaccines,” said Dr Dix.

He added that there was “nothing wrong” with using Pfizer or Moderna as a booster, but alternative vaccines may be a better alternative in the long-term.

Lab results 'don't always translate to the real world'
The decision to move away from giving a primary dose with AstraZeneca and to only use Pfizer or Moderna for boosters was based on various data, including a major study that showed Pfizer and Moderna to be the most effective. But how these lab results translate into real-world effectiveness remains to be seen.

“I think we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves by just measuring antibodies and neutralising antibody responses in the lab as that doesn't follow through for serious disease and death,” said Dr Dix.

“If you look at all the data, there isn't a great correlation between neutralising antibody lab results and protection from severe illness and death, they don't seem to correlate.

“And that's almost certainly because the cellular immune response is the important thing to stopping serious illness and death.”

The lab-based studies had also thus far failed to suitably measure T cell levels over time, something Dr Dix says needs to be urgently addressed if we are to establish the best jabs for annual boosters, which he thinks will be needed for the over-50s and the vulnerable, much like they are for flu.

“[The T cell analysis method used in most studies] just tells you that there are some T cells in the blood that do recognise antigens in the virus.

“It doesn't tell you very much about the quantity or the quality of the responses and it doesn't differentiate between the different T cell classes very easily.

“I do think we've lost the battle with transmission. There's no vaccine that is going to change that. I think we should focus on the cellular immune response, and it may just get us out of the woods.”


UK: Covid hospital admissions are down more than 50% on this time last year despite record-breaking surge in case numbers - giving new hope Omicron is a less severe disease

The number of people in hospital with Covid in England is less than half the same time last year – despite cases being three times higher, official figures show.

In a further sign that the Omicron variant appears to result in less severe disease, there were 8,474 patients in hospital with Covid yesterday compared with 19,277 on the same day last year.

It represents a day-on-day increase of nearly 1,000 and is the highest since March 5. But health bosses say there have been no reports of large numbers of patients requiring ventilators like during last winter’s peak.

The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months.

Covid case numbers – which were updated for the first time since Christmas Eve – reveal 98,515 people in England tested positive yesterday.

This is nearly four times higher than the 25,619 people who tested positive on the same day last year and is a considerable decrease on the 113,628 cases reported in England on Christmas Day.

It is also lower than the 103,558 cases reported on Boxing Day. The promising figures highlight the vaccine’s protective effects against severe illness, as well as the mounting evidence that Omicron is a milder strain.

A further 143 people in England died after testing positive for Covid yesterday – down 42 per cent on the 246 people who were reported to have died the same day last year.

And yesterday’s figure could be skewed by a recording lag, which saw no fatalities registered on Christmas Day and just three on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile data for London – which No10 has been watching closely – reveals there were 364 Covid hospital admissions across the capital on Christmas Day.

While this was a rise on the 278 hospitalisations reported on Christmas Eve, it is still lower than the 400 admissions per day thought to be the Government’s trigger point for imposing new restrictions.

Last night, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 45,307 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant reported across the UK.

This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 159,932, but does not include any new information for Scotland and Northern Ireland which have not reported data since December 23.

The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 39, while hospital admissions for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 407.


Why you might hear Omicron before you feel it as first symptom revealed

Omicron symptoms are coming on faster than Delta, it appears.

There are a few telltale signs that you might have the mutant strain – but you may be able hear the first symptom before you feel ill.

If people are commenting on the fact that your voice sounds croaky, and you haven’t been shouting and singing, it might be time to take a lateral flow, The Sun reports.

You might even notice that you sound a little huskier and deeper than usual.

This could be because you are experiencing a scratchy throat – one of the first symptoms of Omicron, according to experts.

Doctors have said patients don’t seem to be suffering with sore throats, as Delta sometimes presents with, but scratchy throats.

During a briefing last week, Chief executive of Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest private health insurer, Ryan Roach, said it was the most common symptom Omicron patients experience.

This is usually followed by nasal congestion, he said, with other common symptoms including a dry cough and pain in the lower back.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant.”

Both lower back pain and a scratchy throat haven’t been reported as symptoms with other variants.

Going by reports from cases in the UK, South Africa and US, these are the most common early warning signs of Omicron:

•Runny nose/congestion




•Night sweats

•Body aches

While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) states a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell are signs of Covid, many patients have also experienced a sore throat.

The ZOE Covid Symptom Study app has shown that a sore throat is among the most frequently reported symptoms, in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Tim Spector, the leading researcher on the study, presented a YouTube video in which he asked viewers to report exactly how their sore throat feels.

He said: “We are getting a messages that the sore throat people are getting with Covid is a bit unusual, it’s not like they’ve seen it before.

“Maybe in a different place, or it feels differently.

“We might be doing some more research on that to see if we can distinguish these Covid type symptoms from the ones of a normal cold virus.”

Some experts say if you feel unwell, regardless of the symptoms, it is worth getting tested.

If you have a positive (rapid) test, the NHS says “get a PCR test to confirm your result as soon as possible”.

But some experts are saying that at the moment, even if your (rapid test) is negative, it’s worth isolating if you have symptoms.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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