COVID-19 pandemic: India vs Israel

The contrast between India and Israel over this weekend is astonishing. (Gloom vs Cheer).

Israel reports “no new daily Covid-19 deaths for the first time in 10 months”.

India, on the other hand, reports, a record 2,624 deaths in the 24 hours and about one million infections in last three days alone.

The new wave in India seems to have been caused by emergence of new variants, as well as mass gatherings.

It maybe that the mass rapid vaccination drive in Israel helped.

Let’s hope that UK, Europe and USA are firmly on the path towards normality in the summer as the vaccination rates go up.

References

BBC news. Covid-19: Israel records no daily deaths for the first time in 10 months.

BBC news. India Covid surge: Hospitals send SOS as record deaths registered.

Guardian. CoronavirusWhat do we know about the Indian coronavirus variant?
Ian Sample Science editor
@iansample. Mon 19 Apr 2021 16.50 BST

BBC news. Covid vaccine: How many people in the UK have been vaccinated so far?
By The Visual and Data Journalism Team
BBC News

New York Times. Tracking Coronavirus Vaccinations Around the World.
By Josh HolderUpdated April 23, 2021.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can someone die due to COVID-19 infection even after having the full course of protective vaccination?

Yes, rarely it can happen.

COVID vaccines are very highly effective in preventing serious infections that would result in hospitalisation. Even a single dose of the vaccine has very good efficacy.

But vaccines are not 100% effective.

So until the pandemic is under full control, older adults, particularly those over 60 years, should be cautious even after full vaccination.

It also has to be said that the risk is dramatically small after full vaccination. Only a tiny minority of people get serious COVID-19 infection after full vaccination.

In USA, about 5800 “breakthrough” COVID-19 infections has been reported so far among the roughly 77 million people who had been fully vaccinated. That’s less than 0.008% cases.

A much more smaller minority among this minority group had serious infections. Among the 5800 cases, 396 patients were admitted to hospital and 74 patients died from COVID-19. That’s less than 0.0001% deaths.

So unless new viral mutations dramatically reduce vaccine efficacy, it looks very promising.

References:

1. BMJ News. Covid-19: Infections fell by 65% after first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, data show BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1068 (Published 23 April 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1068

2. BMJ news. Covid-19: US reports low rate of new infections in people already vaccinated
BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1000 (Published 16 April 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1000

3. Sun News. DOUBLE TROUBLE ‘Concerning’ Indian Covid variant now in UK has two ‘escape mutations’ that could dodge antibodies
Vanessa Chalmers, Digital Health Reporter
12:22, 16 Apr 2021Updated: 12:25, 16 Apr 2021

4. BBC news. Coronavirus: ‘Double mutant’ Covid variant found in India. Published 25 March

5. Daily Mail. Could the Indian ‘double mutant’ coronavirus derail Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown? Experts warn variant could ‘scupper our escape plan’ and urge Boris to put country on red list. By James Robinson for MailOnline
01:49, 17 Apr 2021 , updated 11:08, 17 Apr 2021

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Are COVID-19 vaccines necessary for someone who has recovered from a COVID-19 infection ?

Yes !

If someone has recovered from a COVID-19 infection, they would have some protection against getting another COVID-19 infection.

But, even if someone has recovered very well from a previous infection, vaccination is necessary because there is still a significant risk of getting COVID-19 infection again.

A recent study published in the medical journal Lancet reports that people who had a previous infection have about one-fifth risk of getting an infection again compared to those without a previous infection.

So while there is some protection against future infections, there is still a risk and hence it is prudent get the Vaccine when it is offered.

Reference:

Lancet. SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity and subsequent infection risk in healthy young adults: a prospective cohort study. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(21)00158-2

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Should young adults avoid Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine ?

Probably Yes, because of the reports of rare cases of brain clots following vaccination.

Like everything else in medicine, risks and benefits needs to be assessed in each individual case.

For instance, a doctor won’t give toxic treatments for a self limiting flu. But, on the other hand, a doctor will try toxic chemotherapy to control advanced lung cancer.

It’s always going to be a balance between risks from a disease versus risks and benefits of a particular treatment.

No vaccine or medicine is ever going to be 100% safe.

For that matter, Life is full of risks. Getting out of bed can be risky. Not getting out of bed everyday is also risky.

Older adults who are at high of COVID related death and COVID related complications should have the vaccine during this pandemic and not worry too much about rare serious side effects.

But young adults, who are a low risk, can avoid Astra Zeneca vaccine based on the available data, if alternatives are available.

References

Official UK data. MHRA. Research and analysis. Coronavirus vaccine – weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting. Updated 8 April 2021.

BBC news. Covid-19: Seven UK blood clot deaths after AstraZeneca vaccine. By James Gallagher.
Health and science correspondent.

BBC news. AstraZeneca vaccine: How do you weigh up the risks and benefits? By Robert Cuffe. Head of statistics

BBC news. Covid: Under-30s offered alternative to Oxford-AstraZeneca jab. By Nick Triggle. Health correspondent

BMJ news. AstraZeneca vaccine: Blood clots are “extremely rare” and benefits outweigh risks, regulators conclude. BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n931 (Published 08 April 2021). Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n931

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in cancer patients having immunotherapy?

Yes, Pfizer vaccine is safe.

A recent study published in the esteemed Lancet Oncology Journal shows that the vaccine is well tolerated in patients having immunotherapy.

Unlike cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy works differently. It works by releasing the in-built brakes holding down the immune system thereby boosting the body’s immune system against cancer.

There has been some theoretical concerns whether this might lead to COVID vaccine causing more side effects.

Reassuringly, the Vaccine side effects were NO different from those seen in people not having immunotherapy. The Vaccine also did NOT increase the immunotherapy side effects.

Immunotherapy is increasingly used widely in treatment of cancer are often better tolerated than chemotherapy.

So the study is good news for tens of thousands of patients on immunotherapy and any cancer patient who has hesitated before, should seriously consider having the vaccine now

COVID infection could be very nasty in cancer patients and all evidence points to the benefits of vaccine far outweighing any risks from the Vaccine.

References

Short-term safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors
The Lancet Oncology. Published: April 1, 2021
Barliz Waissengrin et al. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00155-8

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe in Children ?

Yes, Israel has vaccinated vulnerable children and there have been NO reports of unusual or unexpected reactions.

Pfizer has just released positive results of a study which looked at safety and efficacy of the Vaccine in 12 to 15 year olds.

Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine has shown 100% efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 in 12 to 15 year olds.

The Vaccine reassuringly was well tolerated, and the side effects were no different from those observed in the group aged 16 to 25.

What about much more younger children?

A vaccine trial in the children aged 6 months to 11 years has been started recently and results should be available later this year.

References

SKY news. Wednesday 31 March 2021 14:35, UK

The Guardian. Wed 31 Mar 2021 14.20 BST

BMJ News. Covid-19: Pfizer reports 100% vaccine efficacy in children aged 12 to 15
BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n881 (Published 01 April 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n881

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

How long do the COVID-19 vaccines offer protection?

Many millions of people have now been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective but the next important question is how long would the vaccines continue to protect.

Some vaccines for other viral diseases offer life long protection but others like flu vaccines need annual boosters. COVID-19 Studies are still ongoing.

A recently released Pfizer vaccine study data indicates that protection with Pfizer vaccine lasts for many months as a minimum. To be precise, so far, Pfizer vaccine was found to have 91% efficacy for up to six months. Ongoing studies would clarify whether booster vaccines are needed in future.

Guardian. Pfizer vaccine has 91% efficacy for up to six months, trial shows. Ian Sample Science editor
@iansample
Thu 1 Apr 2021 17.27 BST

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Delays to the 2nd dose of COVID Vaccine can be harmful in cancer patients.

The Pfizer vaccine was tested in clinical trials with two doses given at 3 to 4 week interval.

But during Vaccination of the General population, the UK has taken a pragmatic view and delayed the 2nd Vaccine dose by up to 12 weeks.

A recent study suggests that this delay in administering 2nd Vaccine dose might put cancer patients at risk.

References

1. Guardian. Delaying second Pfizer dose leaves cancer patients at risk, say researchers
Covid vaccination policy review urged after study finds 12-week gap leaves patients vulnerable
.
PA Media
Thu 11 Mar 2021 16.40 GMT

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Should Heath care workers be compelled to have the COVID vaccine ?

The health care workers often deal with the people who are most vulnerable to COVID.

Studies have shown that hospital transmission of COVID played a significant role during first and subsequent wave of the pandemic.

So healthcare workers have a moral and ethical duty to protect their patients by vaccinating themselves.

But this needs to be balanced against the personal choices and beliefs of the healthcare worker.

It is possible that Hospitals and Care homes would make vaccination mandatory for healthcare staff in the near future.

References

Guardian. Healthcare professionals in the UK have a moral duty to get the Covid jab
Frances Ryan.

Daily Mail on Line. Nearly 80% of health care workers in Illinois and half of staff in Texas and North Carolina REFUSE coronavirus vaccines – and it’s holding up the rollout of shots across the US. By Associated Press and Natalie Rahhal U.S. Health Editor 15:37, 08 Jan 2021 , updated 21:21, 08 Jan 2021

Daily Mail. NHS staff could be forced to have Covid jab: Radical plan is being considered for thousands of medical staff who turn down the vaccine… but what if they STILL refuse? By Jason Groves Political Editor For The Daily Mail
22:14, 02 Mar 2021 , updated 22:52, 02 Mar 2021

Gov.UK. SARS-CoV-2 in the hospital environment and risk of COVID-19 nosocomial transmission, 31 May 2020. Paper prepared by the Environmental and Modelling Group (EMG). From:
Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies
Published: 26 June 2020

Guardian. Fifth of patients with Covid-19 may have caught it in hospital, study finds
This article is more than 9 months old
PHE research chimes with concerns that asymptomatic healthcare workers may have played role in spread Coronavirus

Nicola Davis
@NicolaKSDavis
Tue 19 May 2020 18.56 BST

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can companies force you to have the COVID vaccine and say ‘no jab, no job’ ?

Possibly yes, if it is important for your job.

A BBC report discusses the legality of it .

Vast majority of people are desperate to have vaccination and some people are even queue jumping. So this issue is of relevance to some people only and that too when vaccines are freely available to all.

If you are a plumber, who may be visiting the homes of Vulnerable people or a Care Home worker looking after very elderly people, it may be justifiable to say ‘no jab, no job’.

Balancing individual Liberty versus the benefit of others would be a legal minefield particularly when existing workers are concerned.

Furthermore, there are still lot of things we do not know how vaccines. We do not know how long they will protect somebody. We do not know whether all vaccines have similar efficacy. We do not know about the extent to which vaccines would be effective against any variants.

So “Vaccine passport” for ALL types of jobs is a unlikely now.

BBC News. Coronavirus: ‘No jab, no job’ policies may be legal for new staff. 18 Feb 2021.

BBC news. Covid vaccine passports could discriminate, experts warn
By Rachel Schraer
Health reporter

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

COVID pandemic: finally, the end is in sight !

The latest good news about Oxford vaccine is hugely encouraging and denotes the end of pandemic is in sight.

The latest positive results show that even a single dose of the vaccine is highly effective.

The vaccine offered 76% effective protection from a single dose for three months”. This validates the UK decision to prioritise first dose of the vaccine and delay the second dose of booster vaccine.

Most importantly the Vaccine was shown to reduce spread of the virus causing the COVID.

It is the first time a vaccine has been shown to reduce transmission of the virus

If all the vaccines now in use continue to be safe and highly effective in real world population, then it is only a matter of months before the pandemic comes to an end and normal life returns in 2021 !

A separate study also reports very positive news. The study reports that 9 out of 10 people who had an actual COVID infection will have protective antibodies for at least six months.

Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking that there is a real infection and hence the body produces antibodies. So this study indirectly indicates the protection from vaccines will also last longer and yet another reason to be hopeful about the end of pandemic in 2021.

BBC news. Covid-19: Study showing Oxford vaccine slows virus spread ‘superb’ – Hancock.

BBC news: Covid: Antibodies last at least six months in most.
By Rachel Schraer
BBC Health reporter

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Two New Vaccines against COVID-19

More good news on the vaccine front in the fight against the coronavirus.

Two new vaccines have reported positive results.

The NOVAVAX vaccine is first Vaccine to report efficacy against the new variants. It is 95.6% effective against the original strain of coronavirus.

NOVAVAX is 86% effective at protecting against the new UK variant, which is very reassuring. But the Vaccine is only, 60% effective against South African variant of the virus. The efficacy against Brazilian variant is unknown.

The Janssen vaccine, produced by the US giant Johnson & Johnson, is a single-dose vaccine and has proved 66% effective against Covid-19. The vaccine was just 57% effective in the South African part of the trial.

The reduction in efficacy of both vaccines against new variants is a bit worrying and indicates that if further new variants emerge in future, existing vaccines could be less effective and vaccines would need to be updated.

The Janssen vaccine uses a common cold virus and uses a approach similar to the Oxford Astra Zeneca Vaccine.

Novavax vaccine differs from existing vaccines and it uses a artificially produced COVID-19 spike protein, which is then assembled into nanoparticles to make them look like coronavirus.

Bloomberg: Covid Mutations Undercut Optimism Even as More Vaccines Near
By Robert Langreth
30 January 2021, 00:04 GMT
Updated on 30 January 2021, 12:02 GMT

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Why are some people falsely sceptical of COVID Vaccines?

Disclaimer: A personal view point !

“Vaccines hesitancy” is a problem in some sections of society.

A significant minority of people have an unhealthy scepticism about all vaccines in general fuelled by misinformation on social media. Some people in western world, who haven’t seen the horrors that can be wrecked by infectious diseases, have an ill-informed view about all Vaccines.

Vaccines have played a significant role in protection against various deadly infections diseases in the past century. The infectious diseases of childhood have become less prevalent even in developing countries now. But there is a risk of Vaccine Hesitancy spreading to these third world developing countries .

That is not to say that all vaccines are free of side effects. Lot of people do have mild side effects after any vaccination. But very serious side effects are rare.

The concerns of people with Vaccine Hesitancy particularly relating to COVID Vaccine is genuine. The COVID vaccines have been rapidly developed and there are no long term efficacy or toxicity data. Because it is a global emergency, countries are forced to begin COVID vaccination based on the available excellent short term efficacy and safety data. Only time can tell whether the Governments got it right over long term.

But there is no evidence to suggest secrecy or conspiracy surrounding development of various vaccines including COVID vaccines. For instance, two reports of severe allergies due to COVID vaccine was immediately brought to the attention of everyone by Regulatory authorities in UK.

It is now reported that Norway is investigating deaths after coronavirus vaccination in very frail elderly people. Any adverse report on vaccines will be investigated and made public.

Rare individual stories of serious side effects is understandably shocking. It is human nature not to risk when one personally feels well at a particular point in time.

It is very important to remember that life is full of risks. People make decisions every day based on benefits versus risks ( eg driving a car). People need to understand that the benefits from most vaccines against infections diseases significantly outweighs the risks of various vaccine side effects. While a handful have serious side effects, many millions do benefit from the all vaccines.

“Vaccines hesitancy” is also not helped Historic mistrust of government in sections of population which regrettably can make things difficult in terms of achieving good vaccine coverage at population level.

If you have concerns about vaccines –

“Do read information about Vaccines with an open mind and pay attention to high quality population level studies assessing risks versus benefits and ignore individual unsubstantiated stories”.

“Do speak to your doctor about your concerns with an open mind”.

“Do NOT always seek information that affirms your views and Worries. Do seek reliable information that challenges your views on vaccines before you make your choice”.

References

JAMA Insights Clinical Update
January 21, 2021
Allergic Reactions Including Anaphylaxis After Receipt of the First Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
Tom Shimabukuro, MD, MPH, MBA1; Narayan Nair, MD2
Author Affiliations
JAMA. Published online January 21, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.0600

BMJ. Covid-19: Norway investigates 23 deaths in frail elderly patients after vaccination
BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n149 (Published 15 January 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n149.

Guillain-Barré syndrome after vaccination in United States: data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Food and Drug Administration Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (1990-2005)
Nizar Souayah et al. J Clin Neuromuscul Dis. 2009 Sep.

The Atlantic. Anti-vaxxers Think This Is Their Moment. Society’s well-being depends on how well public-health officials and average internet users combat misinformation. DECEMBER 20, 2020
Renée DiResta.
Technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Countering Vaccine Hesitancy. Kathryn M. Edwards, Jesse M. Hackell and THE COMMITTEE ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES, THE COMMITTEE ON PRACTICE AND AMBULATORY MEDICINE
Pediatrics September 2016, 138 (3) e20162146; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2146

Guardian. Covid vaccine: 72% of black people unlikely to have jab, UK survey finds.
Linda Geddes
Sat 16 Jan 2021 07.00 GMT

Lazarus JV, Ratzan SC, Palayew A, et al. A global survey of potential acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nat Med 2020 doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-1124-9

BBC. Royal Marsden’s leading cancer expert Martin Gore dies.
Published 11 January 2019

Times. Cancer pioneer Martin Gore’s sudden death from routine jab.
David Brown
Friday January 11 2019, 12.01am, The Times

The benefit of the doubt or doubts over benefits? A systematic literature review of perceived risks of vaccines in European populations
Emilie Karafillakis et al. Vaccine. 2017.

BMJ. The rush to create a covid-19 vaccine may do more harm than good. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3209 (Published 18 August 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3209

MHRA: Confirmation of guidance to vaccination centres on managing allergic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can Vaccines get us back to normal life again during autumn?

Possibly Yes, but not sooner than that.

Perhaps in later part of 2021, life can just approach some sort of normality in western countries with high uptake of vaccination.

There are many hurdles along the way.

The first problem is supply of Vaccines. There are limited initial supplies globally. It will take many months even for richer countries to get their full supply.

Secondly, Vaccines take many weeks to become very effective. In clinical trials, more than 90% effectiveness was noted for some Vaccines a few weeks after the second dose.

Millions in the UK are yet to receive the first dose. Lots of people would not get the second dose until 10-12 weeks after first dose. A UK minister predicts a September vaccination target for all adults.

So it will take time for the full Vaccine effect to kick in at both individual as well as society level.

Thirdly, there is a potential problem of “Vaccines hesitancy” in sections of the society. A significant minority of people have a unhealthy scepticism about Vaccines fuelled by misinformation on social media.

Fourthly, it has to be pointed out that “No Vaccine works perfectly”. A Vaccine does not offer 100% protection. The high efficacy rates noted in young healthy volunteers participating in various trials might not be observed in real world population, and efficacy rates might be lower in elderly people.

Finally, the most serious potential risk and hurdle would be loss of Vaccine efficacy if new variants of Coronavirus are not protected by existing Vaccines.

Keep the mask; a Vaccine won’t end the COVID-19 crisis right away !

References.

BBC. Will a vaccine give us our old lives back?
By the Visual Journalism Team.
14 January 2021

WSJ. Vaccines Are Coming but They Won’t End Covid-19 Anytime Soon. By Feliz Solomon
Dec. 13, 2020 8:00 am ET

Guardian. All adults in UK will be offered coronavirus vaccine by September.
Dominic Raab sets timescale and says ministers hope to ease lockdown restrictions in March.
Heather Stewart
Sun 17 Jan 2021 13.17 GMT

Guillain-Barré syndrome after vaccination in United States: data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Food and Drug Administration Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (1990-2005)
Nizar Souayah et al. J Clin Neuromuscul Dis. 2009 Sep.

Countering Vaccine Hesitancy. Kathryn M. Edwards, Jesse M. Hackell and THE COMMITTEE ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES, THE COMMITTEE ON PRACTICE AND AMBULATORY MEDICINE
Pediatrics September 2016, 138 (3) e20162146; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2146

Guardian. Covid vaccine: 72% of black people unlikely to have jab, UK survey finds.
Linda Geddes
Sat 16 Jan 2021 07.00 GMT

CDC. New COVID-19 Variants.
Updated Jan. 15, 2021

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Anything potentially good from this COVID-19 pandemic?

It might seem foolish to ask the question “Anything good from this COVID-19 pandemic?” when so many people across the world has been so badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is some truth in the proverb that “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and no matter how bad the current pandemic is now, human spirit and endeavour would get something positive out of it.

One possible good thing that has come out of the pandemic is the “mRNA technology”.

Of the three vaccines so far, two of them the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are based on RNA technology.

The successful use of RNA technology for Coronavirus Vaccines would hopefully enable the versatile RNA technology to be further developed and successfully used a cancer treatment in near future.

Further clinical trials in cancer patients would be done to provide proof of their potential.

References:

Bloomberg. Technology & Ideas. mRNA Vaccines Could Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow.
The best news about the mRNA shots from BioNTech and Moderna is that the same technique could also defeat many other diseases.

MSKCC. In a Twist, Scientists Find Cancer Drivers Hiding in RNA, Not DNA.

Jerusalem Post Health & Science. Israeli scientists use mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology to fight cancer. By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN NOVEMBER 24, 2020 20:08

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Where can I find official detailed information about the three COVID vaccines (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and Moderna)

You might have read information about the COVID vaccines on various news outlets and social media messages.

If you want complete summary information about vaccines approved by the regulatory authorities, click on the links below.

Two types of information leaflets accompany all licensed medicines.
– One is meant for health professionals and has lot of clinical information. (called SPC)
– The other is meant for patients and public and provides a summary of facts using lay terms.(called PIL).

The leaflets provide information about all common side effects observed in the trials.

Oxford Astra Zeneca: Professionals Version .

Oxford Astra Zeneca: Patient Version

Pfizer. Professionals Version

Pfizer. Patient Version

Moderna. Professionals Version

Moderna. Patient Version

FDA USA: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine prescribing informationexternal

FDA USA: Moderna COVID-19 vaccine prescribing informationexternal

The above links reproduced below with longer titles and date of publication.

Please note when new significant information comes to light, the company and regulatory authorities are likely to update the information leaflets.

Oxford Vaccine : Information for Healthcare Professionals on COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
Updated 7 January 2021.

Oxford Vaccine: MHRA. Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
Updated 7 January 2021.

Pfizer Vaccine. MHRA. Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Updated 31 December 2020

Pfizer Vaccine. MHRA. Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Updated 31 December 2020

Moderna. MHRA. Information for Healthcare Professionals on COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna
Updated 8 January 2021.

Moderna. MHRA. Information for UK recipients on COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna
Updated 8 January 2021.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

A third Vaccine approved for protection against COVID-19 Coronavirus infection

Pfizer Vaccine and Astra Zeneca/Oxford Vaccine were approved last month by the UK regulatory authorities.

Now the regulatory authorities have approved a third vaccine. The third vaccine from Moderna along with two other vaccines should help to bring the pandemic to an end.

The Moderna vaccine is a new technology like the Pfizer Vaccine. (based on mRNA technology).

Like the two vaccines, the short term data for Moderna vaccine is very encouraging.

Over long term, one hopes that the protective effect of all the three vaccines is long lasting and that they remain effective against any new variants of coronavirus that might emerge in the coming months.

Overall, there is certainly ‘light at end of the tunnel’ and the world can emerge out of this horrific pandemic in a short period.

BBC. Moderna becomes third Covid vaccine approved in the UK
By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online

BBC.Covid-19: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine judged safe for use in UK
By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online
Published2 December 2020

BBC. Covid-19: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK
By James Gallagher and Nick Triggle
BBC News
Published30 December 2020

MHRA. Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine approved.

MHRA. Moderna vaccine becomes third COVID-19 vaccine approved by UK regulator.

MHRA. UK medicines regulator gives approval for first UK COVID-19 vaccine.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can you get Coronavirus infection even after getting the Vaccine ?

Yes, you can get the COVID-19 infection even after the vaccines.

This is because no vaccine is 100% effective. ( Eg Pfizer 95%, Oxford 70%)

The distressing story of a Nurse in Wales getting the infection after vaccination is an example.

There is also a theoretical chance that protective effect of vaccine is affected by new variants of Coronavirus.

But it is reassuring to learn that the Pfizer vaccine could be effective against UK and South Africa coronavirus strains (but the study is unpublished study and yet to be not peer reviewed ).

Be safe. Be aware !

References: BBC news. Covid: Nurse ‘angry’ over positive test despite vaccination. By Rachael Garside. BBC Wales News.

Covid-19: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine judged safe for use in UK. By Michelle Roberts. Health editor, BBC News online. Published2 December 2020

Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine. List of authors.
Fernando P. Polack, M.D., Stephen J. Thomas, M.D., Nicholas Kitchin, M.D., Judith Absalon, M.D., et al., for the C4591001 Clinical Trial Group*
December 31, 2020
N Engl J Med 2020; 383:2603-2615
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2034577

Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. Merryn Voysey, DPhil *Sue Ann Costa Clemens, PhD *Shabir A Madhi, PhD *Lily Y Weckx, PhD *Pedro M Folegatti, MD *Parvinder K Aley, PhD
et al.
Published:December 08, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32661-1

CNN. Genetics experts worry coronavirus vaccines might not work quite as well against UK variant. By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent. Updated 0328 GMT (1128 HKT) December 24, 2020

Telegraph: Coronavirus latest news: Pfizer vaccine could be effective against UK and South Africa strains, study says. Gareth Davies, breaking news editor. 8 JANUARY 2021 • 9:41AM (“Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker. The not-yet peer reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.”)

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Will the existing COVID vaccines work against the new Coronavirus variant spreading in England ?

A new variant of Corona virus is spreading fast in England.

Some Hospitals in England are reportedly being swamped with COVID patients.

The whole world is placing their bets on vaccines to defeat the Coronavirus and emerge out of this dreadful pandemic.

Studies are ongoing about the effectiveness of vaccines against this new variant coronavirus. There is a risk that changes seen in the variant virus (mutations) might make it evade the vaccine shield.

So far, there has been no conclusive evidence that the variant virus will definitely escape the vaccines. Even if they do, the good news is that current vaccines can be adapted to deal with the changes in the virus.

Reference

(1) BBC News. New coronavirus variant: What do we know?. By James Gallagher
Health and science correspondent. Published 20 December 2020.

(2) BBC News. Newspaper headlines: ‘Vacc to the future’ and village hall jabs.

(3) Preliminary genomic characterisation of an emergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage in the UK defined by a novel set of spike mutations.

(4) Neutralising antibodies drive Spike mediated SARS-CoV-2 evasion.

(5). Covid-19: New coronavirus variant is identified in UK. BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4857 (Published 16 December 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4857

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine safe for use in patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Yes, the available indirect evidence indicates that the anticipated benefits overweigh the potential risks.

Cancer patients, particularly those on chemotherapy have compromised immune systems and hence more vulnerable to COVID-19 Coronavirus complications.

The guidelines indicate that anticipated benefits of vaccine are greater than unknown risks from the Coronavirus vaccines.

The Vaccine trials deliberately included lot of healthy people. Very few people with cancer, particularly cancer patients on active treatment, were included in the COVID-19 trials. So there is not much direct evidence regarding efficacy and safety of Vaccines in cancer patients. But indirect evidence significantly favours Coronavirus vaccination in cancer patients.

Flu vaccines are regularly used in cancer patients without any major side effects specific to cancer patients. No increase in incidence or severity of drug side effects were seen in immunotherapy patients having flu vaccines.

On balance, Vaccination is most likely to be of utmost benefit for most advanced cancer patients on active treatment.

References:

ESMO STATEMENTS FOR VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 IN PATIENTS WITH CANCER.

Guidance: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information
for public health professionals. (UK),

Cochrane: Influenza (flu) vaccination for preventing influenza in adults with cancer

Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Curtis R Chong et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

ESMO: CANCER PATIENT MANAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

Kuderer NM Choueiri TK Shah DP et al.
Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study. Lancet. 2020; 395: 1907-1918

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the new vaccine against COVID-19 causing CoronaVirus safe and effective ?

Yes, the available short term data indicates the vaccine is safe and effective in vast majority of people.

The big unknown is the long term efficacy and side effects.

Normally medicine progresses slowly and carefully like a big train turning slowly on sharp uphill bend .

But due to pandemic emergency, the vaccines are being introduced to the the general public more more earlier than it would have done, well before availability of more mature data.

Long term, there are some uncertainties. For instance, there is a possibility of loss of efficacy if vaccine effect is not long lasting. But there is no evidence to suggest at present this would happen. As regards long term side effects, once more data is collected and more patients are followed up after vaccination, there will more mature data on side effects.

The available data suggests that very high groups who are a high risk of death from COVID , have good odds of benefitting from vaccine.

The trial data published so far, UK Medicine regulator conclusions , Pfizer data sheet and UK govt Guidelines has been positive so far.

It may be that low risk groups such as people in 20s, who have less chance of dying from COVID, may opt for more long term data before having the vaccination.

References:

NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

MHRA Regulatory approval of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19

Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Updated 16 December 2020.

Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Updated 16 December 2020.

Public Health England. COVID-19 vaccination programme. Information for healthcare practitioners. Published December 2020. Version 2.1

The Green book chapter 14a COVID-19-SARS-Cov-2.

PHE. Confirmation of guidance to vaccination centres on managing allergic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 9/12/2020.

British Society for Rheumatology. Guidance for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.


The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the new variant of Coronavirus more dangerous?

Yes and No

The new mutant is more dangerous because it is more easily transmissible from person to person. The new variant is now spreading very rapidly in London and South East of England.

But, so far, the new variant has NOT been found to be more deadly than the original version. The new variant does NOT seem to have substantially increased the risk of hospitalisation and death anymore than the original version of coronavirus.

Emergence of this new mutant (called variant VUI-202012/01 fall) is a certainly a worrying development in this pandemic.

The mutations has made the new strain 70 per cent more transmissible but scientists do not expect these mutations to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

Tests are being carried out to confirm that the existing vaccines would still have a high degree of protective affect.

It is an evolving area and we have to hope that the new variant doesn’t make things worse than they are now !

Covid-19: New coronavirus variant is identified in UK. BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4857 (Published 16 December 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4857

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Some good news amid the doom and gloom: People have Longer immunity to Coronavirus infection after recovering from it.

After someone has recovered from a Coronavirus infection, the body remembers how to fight the virus in future. This is called immunity and it is not known how long this immunity will last.

If the immunity is not long lasting, people can get coronavirus infection again during the second and even third wave.

The body’s immunity is made up of two types of cells: B cells and T cells. T cells and B cells are central to the human immune system.

B cells produce antibodies and previously in various studies , they were found to decline rapidly give rise to fear that people would get Coronavirus infection again and again.

Now a study has reported that T cell immunity can last more than 6 months in patients who have recovered from an infection.

This news is also good from a vaccine point of view. It gives us hope that sooner or later an effective vaccine would become available.

BMJ News.
Covid-19: T cell response lasts for at least six months after infection, study shows
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4257 (Published 02 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4257

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

COVID-19 risk assessment of NHS members : is it an opportunity missed?

The National Health Service had recently embarked on a Risk assessment exercise of its staff to assess the Vulnerability of individual members to Coronavirus infection ( COVID-19).

The exercise is being done with good intentions. Given the unprecedented situation of the pandemic and lack of concrete data , the exercise seemed to have steered away from firm “one size fits all” type of recommendations.

Given the uncertainties with the currently available data on various forms of protection ( from simple surgical masks to shielding) , the exercise could have been a starting point for an nationwide intervention study .

An opportunity seems to have been missed and if there is a second wave, NHS might regret not learning from the first wave.

Please do add your opinion at the rapid response section of the BMJ.

References

1. Covid-19 risk assessment in BAME staff

Covid-19 risk assessment: a futile metaphorical strip search

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3251 (Published 26 August 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3251

2. Physical distancing interventions and incidence of coronavirus disease 2019: natural experiment in 149 countries

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2743 (Published 15 July 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2743

3. Complete protection from covid-19 is possible for health workers

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2641 (Published 07 July 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2641

4. Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in covid-19?

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3223 (Published 25 August 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3223

If you survive the Coronavirus, Can you get Coronavirus infection again ?

Yes, you can get infection again.

Last month, we had studies reporting that the immunity to Coronavirus fades quickly after recovering from an infection. The scientists have warned that re-infection is a risk.

Now, we have a case in Hong Kong where a patient seem to have been unlucky to get the infection again. It is a worrying report and suggests that coronavirus is going to be with us for a long time.

The only reassuring fact is that patient was free of symptoms during second infection. One has to hope that all re-infections are mild !

References

1. Sundar.blog. CAN YOU GET CORONAVIRUS INFECTION MORE THAN ONCE?

2. BBC. Hong Kong reports ‘first case’ of virus reinfection.

3. Clinical Infectious Diseases : report on twitter.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can you get Coronavirus infection more than once?

If you are one of the unlucky ones to have already been infected with Coronavirus infection but recovered from it, can you become unlucky again and get another Coronavirus infection later this year ?

Unfortunately, the answer is a YES.

Some Viral infections can sometimes lead to life long immunity. For example, most people who had chicken pox as a child tend to have lifelong immunity and it would be uncommon to get chicken pox again. (except in some circumstances).

But infection with ‘Coronavirus causing COVID-19’ doesn’t seem led to long lasting immunity or resistance to a second Coronavirus infection.

A Newspaper report on a study by a team from King’s College London suggests that susceptibility to a second infection may occur as short as 3 months in some patients. This because the level of antibodies produced by the immune system after first infection start to fade away within a few months in some patients.

If confirmed, this is probably one of the most worrying news during this pandemic.

This study result could also affect Vaccine development and how frequently it may need to be administered.

References

Guardian Newspaper: Coronavirus outbreak. Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests. Ian Sample. Science editor. @iansample. Sun 12 Jul 2020 17.31 BST

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.