UK COVID-19 Update: 1 in 4 Adults Have Had 2 Jabs, 'No Capacity' for Public Inquiry, NHS 'Rescue Plan'

Tim Locke

April 27, 2021

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

1 in 4 Adults Have Had 2 Jabs

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted that a quarter of adults have now had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

The news came as the NHS COVID-19 vaccine booking system was made available to healthy people aged 42 and over. It only opened to 44-year-olds yesterday.

NHS England Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: "Just 2 weeks after rolling out the vaccine to those aged 45 and over, we are now ready to invite those aged 42 and 43, as the largest vaccination programme in NHS history continues at speed.

"The rapid rollout of the NHS vaccination programme, the swiftest in Europe, hasn’t happened by accident – it is down to months of careful planning and sheer hard work by nurses, doctors and countless other staff supported by our volunteers."

Deaths Declining 

The number of deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 16 April was 0.8% below the 5-year average, the sixth consecutive week that deaths have been below the 5-year average.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said COVID-19 accounted for 3.5% of all deaths compared with 4.2% the previous week.

'No Capacity' for Public Inquiry

Yesterday, as the Prime Minister was denying saying he'd rather bodies piled up than order a third lockdown, news emerged of officials telling the COVID-19 Bereaved Families group that the Government currently had "no capacity" to start a pandemic public inquiry.

A six-page letter from the Government's Legal Department said: "The very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock to respond to the pandemic and keep us all safe."

Today Downing Street officials declined to deny claims the PM said he would rather let coronavirus "rip" than impose a second lockdown last year.
 

Shift Work Risks

Extra workplace precautions may be necessary to protect shift workers from COVID-19, researchers say. A UK Biobank study published in Thorax found working unsociable hours could increase the risk of being hospitalised with COVID-19 by up to three times compared with people who work regular hours.

"We don't quite know yet how the adverse effects are being driven," Dr John Blaikley, a Medical Research Council clinician, who led the study told Medscape News UK.

"It could be environmental factors, such as less cleaning in the workplace, or increasing tiredness." It could also be linked with irregularities in the internal body clock, some of which "does affect the immune response".

NHS 'Rescue Plan'

Labour is calling for an NHS rescue plan to tackle the post-pandemic waiting list. The party's analysis shows 366,194 patients now waiting more than a year for treatment, up from 1643 in January 2020.

Commenting, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said the figures were "concerning, and is further indication of the extent of the impact of the pandemic on the health service, which is not yet clear".

She added: "Despite how quickly trusts are working to deliver for all patients, there are signs that tackling the backlog could take between 3 to 5 years on current trajectories."

Social Care Needs a '1948 Moment'

The NHS Confederation, Age UK, and Care England are among co-signatories to a letter to Boris Johnson saying social care needs an NHS-style '1948 moment' to establish a "long-term and sustainable future, that will be to the benefit of all citizens and the economy".

The letter concludes: "Many citizens have been so heartened to hear your commitment to reform, we hope to see it in the Queen’s Speech and we stand ready to support you."

Infliximab 

Exeter's CLARITY study research published in Gut found that around a third IBD patients treated with infliximab had attenuated immunogenicity after COVID-19 vaccination.

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Daniel Altmann, professor of immunology, Department of Immunology and Inflammation, Imperial College London, said: "We’re used to the message that, on average, for most people, even one dose of vaccine offers considerable protection against symptomatic or severe infection. However, in the real-world, people are complex. The answer here is that around a third of patients with inflammatory bowel disease who are taking infliximab don’t develop antibodies after one vaccine dose at a level likely to be protective.  While it’s great that so many people in the UK have received one vaccine dose, examples such as this are a reminder not to be complacent and to press on to the second vaccine dose."

Lockdown Fines Questioned

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights is recommending lockdown breach fixed penalty notices (FPNs) should be reviewed.

Committee Chair, Harriet Harman MP, said there was a lack of legal clarity: "This means we’ve got an unfair system with clear evidence that young people, those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, men, and the most socially deprived are most at risk. Whether people feel the FPN is deserved or not, those who can afford it are likely to pay a penalty to avoid criminality. Those who can’t afford to pay face a criminal record along with all the resulting consequences for their future development. The whole process disproportionately hits the less well-off and criminalises the poor over the better off."

More News

  • Indian armed forces have been called in to help struggling health services in the country as new cases stayed above 300,000 in 24 hours. Overseas aid is arriving, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators from the UK.

  • Japan has imposed "short and powerful" lockdown measures in areas including Tokyo and Osaka with a resurgence in cases 3 months before the Olympics.

  • Less than 5 months after the UK delivered the first COVID-19 vaccine, the world marked the one billionth jab at the weekend.

  • The US will share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries once it's stockpile has been cleared for public use.

  • Pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 last year were 20 times more likely to die than those who didn't contract the virus, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

  • Israel’s Health Ministry is reported to be investigating a small number of myocarditis cases in people who'd received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Commenting, Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics, University of Bristol, said the reports "appear to be both preliminary and inconclusive. This is another example of proof that vaccine safety monitoring systems can work well if they are set up properly – but not proof for the moment whether there is a real problem."

  • The BBC reported how lockdown has affected pre-school children's language skills as they were deprived of social contact and normal play.

Portraits

NHS workers will feature in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' annual exhibition at London's Mall Galleries May 6-15, including 'Amanda' by Kate Newington.

Credit:Kate Newington/Royal Society of Portrait Painters/PA Media

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

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