Elderly and vulnerable people who are double vaccinated against Covid-19 have started dying of the virus due to the jab’s waning efficacy, a chief medical advisor has said.
Dr Susan Hopkins at the UK Health Security Agency said while the
The scientist’s comment come as the chief executive of NHS Providers warned that health trusts in England are already at peak winter levels for bed occupancy.
It also come as health secretary Sajid Javid urged the elderly and vulnerable to get their booster jabs as part of a ‘national mission’ to help avoid a return to coronavirus restrictions over Christmas.
Last week reports said
Health chiefs have warned for months that the vaccine’s effects wane after five or six months after the second dose, which prompted the Government to launch a booster campaign in the autumn.
Speaking about the mortality rates relating to Covid-19 on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dr Hopkins said: ‘The people who are dying are the same people who have died all the way through.
Dr Susan Hopkins at the UK Health Security Agency said while the coronavirus booster rollout was going well she wanted to urge more people to come forward
The scientist said more than 60 per cent of the population that are being offered boosters are taking it up
‘It is particularly the older age groups, so the over-70s in particular, but also those who are clinically vulnerable, extremely vulnerable, and have underlying medical conditions.’
She added: ‘As we’ve mentioned, the immune effects wane and what we see is, especially in the older or the vulnerable groups, those are the people whose immunity will wane the most.
‘So, if you’re a healthy 30-year-old, then two doses will protect you for a longer period. That’s why those people need to come forward for their third dose as soon as possible.’
The scientist said there are deaths in the elderly population due to around five per cent of those remaining unvaccinated.
She added: ‘We’re still seeing deaths in mainly the unvaccinated population … but increasingly, because of immune waning effects, there are deaths in the vaccinated group as well.’
Outlining the uptake of boosters so far, Dr Hopkins said: ‘It’s been quite good. There’s over 60 per cent of the population that are being offered boosters [who] are taking it up.
‘I think it’s slower than we saw in the first round.
‘I think that may be due to people thinking they’re already protected, which is why we’re giving a lot of public health messages about why it’s so important for them to come forward for that third dose.’
She added: ‘We know that the virus is circulating at very high levels in our community. So unless people get vaccinated, we will have a long and difficult winter.’
This week Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for people to come forward for their third doses, stating that younger relatives should urge eligible parents and grandparents to take up the offer of a booster and the flu vaccine.
He said: ‘Almost 10 million people in the UK have received their Covid-19 booster and third jabs, a phenomenal achievement in under two months.
‘As we approach this milestone, I want to thank those who have come forward and urge everybody across the nation to get vaccinated, get protected and get boosted.
‘We know immunity begins to wane after six months, especially for the elderly and the vulnerable, and booster vaccines will top-up their protection to keep people safe over the winter.
‘I strongly urge everybody who is eligible for a Covid-19 booster or flu vaccine to take up the offer as soon as you can.
‘For those not yet eligible, please help your parents, grandparents or vulnerable loved ones get their jabs, it could save their life.
‘And if you haven’t yet had your first and second vaccines, it is not too late, the NHS will always be there to welcome you with open arms. This truly is a national mission.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for people to come forward for their third doses, stating that younger relatives should urge eligible parents and grandparents to take up the offer
‘If we all come together and play our part, we can get through this challenging winter, avoid a return to restrictions and enjoy Christmas.’
Britain is no longer ‘Europe’s Covid capital’: Belgium, Austria and Ireland’s outbreaks overtake UK
Britain’s Covid outbreak is no longer the worst in Western Europe, according to official data that shows infections are beginning to soar across the continent.
Cases spiked in the UK when schools went back in September, which led to the country being branded Europe’s coronavirus capital by advocates of the Government’s ‘Plan B’ strategy.
Many scientists, including No10’s own, argued that the UK was only recording higher case, hospital and death rates because it is testing far more than other EU nations.
But latest statistics show Austria, Belgium and Ireland have all overtaken Britain in Western Europe’s infections league table. This is despite all three countries having a mix of tougher restrictions, including face masks, work from home guidance and vaccine passports.
And Germany today reported its highest ever daily infection toll, prompting the country’s health minister to warn the fourth wave has hit the country with ‘full force’. The World Health Organization warned Europe is ‘back at the epicentre’ of the pandemic.
Britain led the way with Covid vaccinations at the start of the year and was months ahead of the rest of the EU, which many scientists believe led to immunity waning quicker here and left the country vulnerable to another uptick in cases.
The chief executive of NHS Providers has warned that health trusts in England are already at peak winter levels for bed occupancy.
Chris Hopson has said the NHS is expecting to see a combination of higher levels of Covid and higher levels of flu this winter while dealing with the backlog of care for patients.
In a pre-recorded interview to be broadcast on Times Radio on Sunday morning, he said: ‘The accident and emergency pathway is very, very busy. So, at a point when our staff are really exhausted, it is very worrying.
‘The bit that’s particularly worrying is … if you look at acute hospitals, where effectively you look at bed occupancy, which is a very good measure of how busy a hospital is, we’re seeing bed occupancy levels, it’s sort of 94, 95, 96 per cent.’
He added: ‘At this point, before we’re into peak winter. We’ve not seen that before. That’s unprecedented. So, there’s a real sense that the NHS is going to be under real pressure.’
The UK Health Security Agency’s Dr Susan Hopkins said the group is continuing to monitor the coronavirus as it mutates but delta currently remains the most dominant variant.
She added that while it is too early to say the virus has nowhere else to go, its changes are likely to be ‘smaller and more incremental from here on in’.
Outlining if she thinks this will be the last Christmas where people will be wearing face masks, Dr Hopkins added: ‘Hopefully this will be the last Christmas where we have to think that way. I think we’ll know much more when we get to the spring and as time goes on.
‘I do think, though, that this is going to be part of our endemic seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses.’
Yesterday Britain’s Covid crisis continued to shrink amid hopes a triple boost of falling infections, faster booster jabs and a ‘wonder pill’ will aid the UK’s fight against the virus this winter.
Department of Health bosses posted a further 30,693 new infections over the last 24 hours, up 25 per cent on the 41,278 recorded last Saturday.
It was the 14th day in a row cases fell week-on-week, barring Monday — a blip that was down to Wales not publishing any infection numbers the previous week.
The number of people dying with the virus also fell 6.6 per cent to 155, down from 166 last Saturday.
And hospitalisations fell to 1,055 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for. They were down 3.2 per cent on the previous week.
The figures came after hopes in Britain’s fight against the virus were boosted by faster booster jabs, a new treatment that can half the risk of serious infection, as well as plunging infection rates.
From Monday the double vaccinated will be able to book their third dose a month earlier than before.
British travellers who fail to take their booster jabs could face renewed restrictions. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Palma de Mallorca Airport
The plans are likely to prove controversial if introduced before most of those eligible for their booster have received it
In a second significant development, a new antiviral pill has also been found to slash the risk of vulnerable people being hospitalised or dying from
And official figures also showed that the infection rate and the R-rate have both fallen. Cases have dropped by a third in a fortnight – from 49,298 to 34,029.
So far almost 10 million people in the UK have received a top-up jab, but around 30 per cent of over-80s and 40 per cent of over-50s in England are yet to receive a booster shot of vaccine, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Three million more people in England are being invited to have their coronavirus booster jabs next week after Saturday saw a record day when more than 371,000 people had a top-up jab.
People over 50 and those most at risk from Covid-19 are currently eligible for a booster six months after their second jab.
Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme in England, said: ‘More than 371,000 people were recorded as receiving a top-up yesterday, meaning almost 8.5 million have received one in the seven weeks since the latest phase of the programme launched.
‘With winter fast approaching I would urge anyone who has not yet had a booster – or indeed a first or second dose – to not delay but take up the offer to protect themselves, their family and their friends.
‘People can now walk-in without an appointment to get their top-up vaccination and from tomorrow can book in an appointment a month in advance of becoming eligible – so there is no excuse to not get the lifesaving vaccine and people should do so as soon as they can.’
It comes as it was revealed that British travellers who fail to take their booster jabs face renewed restrictions.
From Monday the double vaccinated will be able to book their third dose a month earlier than before. Pictured: Doctor Abhi Mantgani administers a Covid-19 vaccine booster to Joanne Coombs at Birkenhead Medical Building in Birkenhead
Plans to reimpose quarantine and testing for those who have refused their third vaccine are currently being drawn up by Ministers to protect the UK against the spread new Covid variants, The Mail On Sunday revealed.
But they are likely to prove controversial if introduced before most of those eligible for their booster have received it. So far, only 60 per cent have done so.
The move would change the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ from having had two jabs to three.
Officials are divided over how soon to implement the measure and are discussing a grace period that would allow people to travel without quarantine if they had sought a booster six months after their second jab but had not yet been offered an appointment.
Pfizer pill slashes risk of getting seriously ill
By Victoria Allen, Science Correspondent for the Daily Mail
A new antiviral pill slashes the risk of vulnerable people being hospitalised with or dying from Covid-19 by almost 90 per cent.
Britain has already ordered a quarter of a million doses of the drug, called Paxlovid.
This week it was first in the world to approve a similar antiviral, molnupiravir, which can be taken at home by high-risk people. The UK has secured 480,000 doses.
Trials of Paxlovid, involving an initial 1,219 participants, were stopped early because it worked so well.
Among those who took the drug – which is made by US firm Pfizer – within three days of getting Covid symptoms, less than 1 per cent were admitted to hospital and none died.
Those given a dummy pill did much worse, with 7 per cent hospitalised and seven deaths.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the results were ‘incredible’ and that the medical regulator would now assess the drug’s safety and effectiveness.
He said: ‘If approved, this could be another significant weapon in our armoury to fight the virus alongside our vaccines and other treatments, including molnupiravir, which the UK was the first country in the world to approve this week.’ Albert Bourla, chief executive of Pfizer, said: ‘Today’s news is a real game-changer in the global efforts to halt the devastation of this pandemic.
‘These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved or authorised by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of Covid-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalisations.’
Pfizer’s combination treatment contains a ‘protease inhibitor’, which blocks a key enzyme Covid needs to multiply in the body.
This is given with a low dose of an HIV drug called ritonavir, which keeps it in the body for longer to counteract the virus.
The pill works differently to molnupiravir, which was approved by the medical regulator on Thursday and is made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and MSD – the UK arm of US pharmaceutical giant Merck.
Molnupiravir works by incorporating genetic errors into the virus so that it is less able to replicate. But both antiviral pills represent a landmark change in how the pandemic is tackled, as they could be taken at home without the need for infusions or injections.
When people were given Paxlovid within three days of symptoms appearing, 1 per cent were hospitalised in the following 28 days, and none died.
That compared to seven deaths among people given a dummy pill, among whom 6.7 per cent were hospitalised. The trials involved those who were unvaccinated, infected with the virus and were considered high-risk for hospitalisation due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The results have not yet been published in a journal or checked by other scientists.
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said the antivirals are ‘a vital element for the care of clinically vulnerable people who may be unable to either receive or respond to vaccines’.
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