For weeks now, Britain has been reporting alarming death rates from the coronavirus, hospitals continue to fill and fears have grown that it will take months to control the spread of a more transmissible variant first discovered in the Kent region of England last year. to get.
On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference that the new variant may also be associated with a slightly higher risk of death, even though he acknowledged it was too early to be certain, and his own scientific advisers urged restraint on the matter. interpreting preliminary evidence. .
Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, said the data indicating an increased risk of death in those infected with the new variant is preliminary and based on small numbers. The absolute risk of dying from Covid-19 still remains low.
"That evidence isn't strong yet, it's a series of different pieces of information coming together to back that up," said Mr. Vallance.
Referring to the country's overloaded National Health Service, Mr. Johnson said that “ it is largely the impact of this new variant that the N.H.S. is under such intense pressure. "
But while Britain's major health authorities have warned of the bleak weeks ahead, the latest vaccination figures have provided a ray of hope: nearly 5.5 million people had received a first vaccination dose in Britain since Friday. according to government data. That equates to about 8 percent of the population.
In comparison, the United States has vaccinated about 4.5 percent of the population, and most European countries have less than 2 percent vaccinated.
Fewer than 500,000 people in Britain have received a second injection, as the National Health Service prioritizes first injections and second doses are given up to 12 weeks after the first, England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said. first injection of the Pfizer BioNTech and Astra Zeneca vaccines gave a "great majority of the protection".
Since authorities imposed new lockdown restrictions in England this month, Britain has reported the highest daily mortality rates. The country remains one of the hardest hit countries in Europe. and authorities have said England's lockdown could remain in place all spring.
"We will somehow have to live with the coronavirus for a long time," Johnson said Friday.
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, medical providers and residents of long-term care facilities are likely to come first. If you want to understand how this decision comes about, this article will help you.
Life will only return to normal if society as a whole is given adequate protection against the corona virus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can vaccinate up to a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to becoming infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines offer robust protection against illness. But it is also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they are infected because they experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Scientists do not yet know whether the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for now, even vaccinated people will have to wear masks, avoid crowds indoors, and so on. Once enough people have been vaccinated, it will be very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society reach that goal, life could begin to approach almost normal by the fall of 2021.
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that yielded these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it without having a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively as the vaccines hit the market. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will have to see themselves as potential spreaders.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is given as an injection into the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection will be no different from the one you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt momentary discomfort, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last for a day. People may need to take a day off from work or school after the second admission. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system coming into contact with the vaccine and triggering a powerful response that will provide long-lasting immunity.
No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make coronavirus proteins that can stimulate the immune system. Each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules at any given time, which they produce to make proteins themselves. Once those proteins are made, our cells shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can survive for only a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is designed to resist the cell's enzymes for a little longer so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and elicit a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can take up to a few days to be destroyed.
The situation is so bleak that, according to British news reports, authorities are considering offering £ 500 (about $ 680) to anyone who tests positive for the virus to help them remain in quarantine for the full 10 days, which many are currently not doing.
There are also concerns that cuts in vaccine deliveries from Pfizer, which is converting a major factory in Belgium, could delay the vaccination campaign, and that variations in vaccination coverage put some parts of the country at a disadvantage.
In Britain, a racecourse, rugby fields and religious buildings have been turned into vaccination centers, and shots are also being launched in 1,200 hospitals and medical offices. More than two million people have been vaccinated in the past seven days, twice as many as two weeks ago.
At that rate, Britain still could not meet its target of vaccinating 13.9 million people by mid-February, but authorities have said they can meet the target if they continue to increase the pace.
Mr Johnson took a cautious tone about the vaccine rollout on Friday, reminding him that a successful vaccine rollout alone could not beat the virus. "It depends on everyone doing the right thing and avoiding transmission," said Mr Johnson.
The encouraging vaccination figures contrast sharply with the slow rollout elsewhere in Europe. Several leaders expressed frustration on Thursday, and members of the European Union urged the authorities of the bloc to speed up the delivery of vaccines.
Government officials in Romania and Poland said Pfizer had cut the amount of vaccine doses delivered to their country in half, and Italian officials have threatened legal action against the US vaccine maker.
"Leaders want vaccination to be speeded up," said Charles Michel, European Council president, E.U. group. leaders.
In Britain, Mr Whitty said more vaccines and antivirals would be introduced later this year. "I don't think this virus is going anywhere," said Mr. Whitty. "It will probably last forever, but it will be monitored."