Vaccines cut infection rates after the first jab by up to two-thirds – study


Vaccines cut infection rates after the first jab by up to two-thirds, according to a British study likely to put pressure on Boris Johnson to lift lockdown faster.

Early results of the vast UK study on the impact of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout suggests that the level of protection was about 60% to 65%.

The results applied to vaccine recipients of all ages, and protection began after two weeks.

A draft has been sent to the government but on Wednesday Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said he was not publishing its results yet because he wanted more data.

The figures, first reported in The Sun and confirmed by a Whitehall source, showed that one dose reduced the symptomatic infection risk by 65% in younger adults and 64% in over-80s.

Protection for those given two shots rose to between 79% and 84%, depending on age.

Israel’s vaccine rollout linked to infection fall


Israel’s vaccination programme is showing signs of working to drive down infections and illness in the over-60s.

The fall appears to be most pronounced in older people and areas furthest ahead in their immunisation efforts.

This suggests it is the vaccine, and not just the country’s current lockdown, taking effect.

Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) figures show 531 over-60s, out of almost 750,000 fully vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus (0.07%).

And far fewer fell ill, with 38 becoming hospitalised with moderate, severe or critical disease – a tiny proportion.

The MoH assessed the medical records of almost a million people in total – 743,845 of whom were over the age of 60 – until at least seven days after they received a second dose of the vaccine.

There were three deaths in vaccinated over-60s – although it is possible they contracted the infection earlier, before their immunity had time to build.

Before the vaccine had time to take effect, more than 7,000 infections were recorded, just under 700 cases of moderate to critical illness and 307 deaths.

The MoH data suggests infections and illnesses fell consistently from 14 days after receiving the first jab onwards.

Nasal spray that ‘stops coronavirus’ could be in shops by summer


A nasal spray that is reported to stop Covid infections for two days may be in shops by the summer of 2021.

The University of Birmingham has developed a nasal spray which it says “protects against coronavirus and prevents transmission”.

Researchers say the spray protects against COVID-19 and can also prevent the virus being passed from person to person.

Dr Richard Moakes, from the University of Birmingham, says his formula could help bring the UK out of crippling lockdown restrictions.

Dr Moakes told the Telegraph : “As an over the shelf product, we have spoken to companies with a presence on the high street as we think they could distribute it effectively.

“Based on the product, it will be much quicker to get to the user than a novel drug.

Covid-blocking nasal spray that works for two days ‘could be in shops by summer’


A nasal spray that stops Covid infections for up to two days could be available in chemists by the summer, a researcher has claimed.

Dr Richard Moakes of the University of Birmingham reckons his team’s formula can help lift Britain out of lockdown and “get schools going again”.

The lead researcher has been in discussions with shops and pharmaceutical giants over mass producing the product they’ve been working on since last April.

It is reportedly made from ingredients that have already passed human safety approval tests – and said to work by capturing the virus in the nose and encapsulating it in a coating which it cannot escape from.

Dr Moakes told the Telegraph : “As an over the shelf product, we have spoken to companies with a presence on the high street as we think they could distribute it effectively.

“Based on the product, it will be much quicker to get to the user than a novel drug.

The research group announced that laboratory experiments showed the spray prevented a coronavirus infection from spreading for up to 48 hours last November.

UK Covid lockdown starting to work, say scientists


Lockdown restrictions in the UK are beginning to work, scientists said on Friday, as several studies showed coronavirus infections falling in England and most of the rest of the country.

The latest official estimate of R, the average number of people to whom someone infected passes the virus, is between 0.8 and 1.0 both for the UK and for England.

“The number of new infections is likely to be shrinking by between 1 per cent and 4 per cent every day,” said Sage, the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies.

Last week Sage put R for the UK at 1.2 to 1.3.

More good news came from the latest Office for National Statistics infections survey. ONS estimated that during the week ending January 16, just over 1m people in England had Covid-19, equivalent to about 1 in 55 or 1.8 per cent of the population.

UK coronavirus R rate falls to between 0.8 and 1 – and could be as low as 0.7 in London


The coronavirus R number has fallen to between 0.8 and 1 across the UK, according to the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

It is the first time the virus’s reproductive rate has fallen below 1 since early December, raising hopes the epidemic is slowing as lockdown measures take effect. Sage estimates the growth rate of the outbreak is now between -4 and 0 per cent.

Last week the R rate was estimated to be between 1.2 to 1.3. The latest figures mean that, on average, every person infected with Covid-19 will infect between 8 and 10 people.

In London the R number is even lower, at between 0.7 and 0.9, with an estimated growth rate between -7 and -3 per cent.

Australia posts zero virus cases, state chief calls for ‘Pacific bubble’


Australia recorded a fourth day of zero coronavirus cases on Thursday, prompting the chief of the country’s most populous state to call for a special travel “bubble” with Pacific island nations.

New South Wales has reined in an outbreak in mid-December that prompted a strict lockdown in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, while broader social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing were imposed for the rest of the city.

Signalling those restrictions were set to be eased next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklien told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the federal government should consider establishing a travel arrangement with the Pacific.

“There is no reason why we shouldns’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months,” Berejiklian said.

The comments come after Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly cautioned about restarting international travel, given the country was in an “envious position” compared to most of the world.

Unlike other countries, Australia has closed its international borders, only allowing its stranded citizens back home.

Four million in UK get their first vaccine


More than four million people in the UK have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to government figures.

People in their 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable in England are now among those being offered the vaccine.

However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said UK data showed more people were in hospital with Covid than ever – and urged people to follow lockdown rules.

He said: “Do not blow it now. We are on the route out. We have to stick at it.”

Speaking during a Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said more than half of those over 80 and half of elderly care home residents had been vaccinated.

He said that in some parts of the country the “vast majority” of people in their 80s had had their first dose – and specifically congratulated Slough for having already vaccinated every single elderly care home resident.

Australia on track to record zero COVID-19 cases for second straight day


Australia is on course to record its second straight day of zero local COVID-19 cases, helped by tougher restrictions on public movement and internal borders, but authorities continued to urge more people to get tested to track undetected cases.

Australia has been seeking to contain fresh virus outbreaks since last month with impacted regions placed under lockdown and masks made mandatory indoors but infection rates seem to have stabilised after low cases in recent days.

New South Wales (NSW), the country’s most populous state, flagged it could ease restrictions soon if testing numbers rise as more tests could help trace all unknown infections.

2.4 million have received vaccine in UK, says Boris Johnson


Around 2.4 million people have now received a coronavirus vaccine, the Prime Minister has said. 

It comes as seven mass vaccination sites opened across England today.

The new centres will operate 8am to 8pm, and will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services as well as the first pharmacy-led pilot sites. This takes the UK’s vaccination sites to around 1,200, NHS England said.

Praising the expansion of the UK’s vaccination programme, Professor Chris Whitty told BBC Radio 5 Live he hopes that restrictions will not be necessary next winter but that society is “quite a long way” from returning to normal life.

“If we have a very effective vaccination programme,” England’s chief medical officer said.

“If the vaccine works for a long period of time and prevents transmission, and in particular if everybody takes it up as they’re offered it, then my hope is that we will need minimal or no restrictions in due course.”