Posted in MyCeylon
January 29, 2021

UK coronavirus live: Britain secures 60m Novavax vaccine doses; 1 in 55 had Covid in England last week

Latest updates: trial results show Novavax vaccine highly protective against variant that emerged in Kent; ONS figures show cases still high

It’s a tribute to the ingenuity of the human spirit that the UK and the EU can still come up with new sources of bitter dispute, writes Guardian columnist Marina Hyde.

How are you enjoying the vaccine wars? The EU’s meltdown at the UK is one of those rows that turns you into the grimace-face emoji. I’ve now held that expression for three straight days, presumably along with the other 500 million-odd citizens who just want to get home but whose parents are fighting on the pub floor. Guys … please? PLEASE.

There is a true coach-crash quality to the EU’s reaction to being outfoxed by the UK on vaccine procurement. The commission’s pram has been dramatically emptied of all its toys. It’s like watching an endlessly patient and mild-mannered social studies teacher finally lose it and head-butt a pupil for beating him in a quiz.

Related: Just what we needed, a new strain of nationalism – the vaccine kind | Marina Hyde

Europe’s medicines regulator has recommended approving AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine for people over the age of 18.

It is the third Covid-19 vaccine the EMA has recommended for authorisation.

EMA has just recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for the #COVID19vaccine AstraZeneca to prevent #COVID19 in people from 18 years of age. Read our press release:

The latest coronavirus laws are coming into force as part of tougher measures to crack down on illegal gatherings during the pandemic.

PA Media reports:

Fines of £800 for people caught at house parties will become law at 5pm.

The penalty will apply for groups of over 15 people and will double after each offence up to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders, the home secretary, Priti Patel, said last week when she announced the plans.

A total of 7,263,317 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between 8 December and 28 January, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 344,464 on the previous day’s figures.

Of this number, 6,816,945 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 343,193 on the previous day’s figures, while 446,372 were the second dose, an increase of 1,271.

Boris Johnson just tweeted this:

Very encouraging that early trials of the vaccine developed by Janssen show it to be effective against coronavirus.

We have secured 30 million doses, and if approved by our medicines regulator we should expect these to be available later this year.

Public Health Scotland said 515,855 people in the country had received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 8.30am on Friday 29 January, an increase of 24,197 from the previous day.

It added that 7,095 people have received the second dose, an increase of 312.

More than three-quarters of all major hospital trusts in England are currently reporting fewer Covid-19 patients than at their second-wave peak, new analysis shows.

PA Media reports:

In some regions, such as eastern and south-east England, all but one trust has dropped below the level seen at the peak of the second wave of the virus.

The proportion of trusts still reporting a record number of Covid-19 patients is slightly higher in north-east and north-west England, however.

A further 744 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospitals in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths to 70,545.

Patients were aged between 24 and 101 years old. All except 26 (aged 24 to 96 years old) had known underlying health conditions, NHS England said on Friday.

Tributes have been paid to a prison mental health nurse who died after a “hard-fought battle” against Covid-19.

PA Media reports:

Craig Goldsney, who is survived by his wife, Becca, and three sons, Jacob, Ben and Ethan, had worked as part of the NHS team at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, since 2007.

An online fundraising page has so far raised more than £5,000 to help the family of the 47-year-old staff nurse, who died on 21 January.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has posted a video on Twitter in response to the news that the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine shows good efficacy after only one dose.

Trial results show the jab is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 but offers high protection against people needing to go to hospital.

GOOD NEWS on the single-dose Janssen vaccine

Our approach of buying abroad & making here in the UK is paying off & I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everybody involved

A fifth vaccine, made by the US company Johnson & Johnson, has shown efficacy against the coronavirus and could transform prospects for protecting both the UK and the rest of the world, because it needs only a single dose.

The vaccine, made by the US giant’s subsidiary Janssen, based in the Netherlands, was trialled in the UK – and the British government has bought 30m doses. The EU has ordered 400m doses.

Related: Johnson & Johnson one-dose Covid vaccine shown to work

Further on the dispute over vaccine deliveries between the EU and AstraZeneca, this from Stefan Leifert, German broadcaster ZDF’s correspondent in Brussels:

According to ZDF information, these are the delivery quantities that AstraZeneca has committed to in the vaccine contract with the EU:

– 30 to 40 million doses by the end of 2020

Das sind nach ZDF-Informationen die Liefermengen, zu denen sich AstraZeneca im Impfstoff-Vertrag mit der EU verpflichtet hat:
– 30 bis 40 Millionen Dosen bis Ende 2020
– 80 bis 100 Millionen Dosen im ersten Quartal 2021

The government has published the latest stats on the coronavirus R and growth rates in the UK, with Sage warning that cases “continue to be dangerously high”.

The R range for the week between 22 and 29 January is now between 0.7 and 1.1, compared with 0.8 to 1.0 the previous week.

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has argued that UK ministers did “the least they thought they could get away with” when they drew up plans to tighten up the UK border to drive down Covid cases.

Asked if he could envisage the UK being closed off for six months or the rest of the year, he said: “I can envisage that. I think those protections would be greater than the ones the UK government has decided on this week. I did say in a meeting with the UK government this smacked again of the UK government doing the least they thought they could get away with rather than the most that needed to be done.

Downing Street said the UK remained confident in its vaccine supply in the face of a possible export ban being imposed by the EU.

Asked by reporters about the prospect of EU action, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said:

I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. EU policy is a matter for them but I would point back to what I’ve said and what the prime minister has said about the confidence we have in our supply chains and the fact we remain committed to vaccinating the most vulnerable groups by the middle of February, the rest of phase one by the spring and offer a dose to all adults by September.

I think the public would expect us to continue to vaccinate as many people as possible, and that’s what we will do.

The deals we have in place with the seven vaccine developers will ensure our supply continues to grow as we rapidly expand the rollout of the plan in the weeks and months ahead.

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has suggested it was wrong for Boris Johnson to visit Scotland yesterday.

Asked if he would welcome the UK prime minister to Wales, Drakeford said: “I myself have left Cardiff twice since November.” He said he had visited the Rhondda Valley when a coal tip slipped and the scene of flooding in Neath Port Talbot.

This from EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides on the publication of the contract between the EU and AstraZeneca:

Transparency and accountability are essential to build the people’s trust in our vaccine strategy.

We just published the contract we concluded with @AstraZeneca

We owe it to the citizens. I hope more contracts will be published in the future.

The contract between the EU commission and the vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca is online. This gives the public more clarity about what exactly is in the contract.

Unfortunately, the crucial figures about the exact delivery quantities have been blacked out. I suppose this was under pressure from the company.

Extending the time between doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine is of “very little concern”, an expert has said.

PA Media reports:

The chief investigator behind a new highly effective jab from the American firm said leaving a longer gap between jabs is unlikely to have a negative impact on effectiveness – and may even increase it.

Interim trial results suggest the new Novavax vaccine is 89% effective at preventing Covid-19 in people who received two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart.

Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman says publishing figures about known supplies of vaccine for Scotland “is exactly the right thing to do”, in response to Scottish Tory accusations that doing so could put lives at risk.

At the Scottish government’s daily briefing, Freeman said: “The UK government has repeatedly briefed key statistics on how much vaccine has been allocated and delivered to Scotland so it’s not credible for them to one day tell journalists what these figures are and another day tell us putting out those figures is a matter of national security. That circle really doesn’t square.”

Thousands of British travellers rushed to return home from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday before a flight ban came into force.

PA Media reports:

Social media influencers and models are among those affected by the decision to ban direct flights from the UAE from 1pm.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the policy at 5pm on Thursday, giving travellers just 20 hours to make arrangements. The measure is aimed at stopping the spread of the South African coronavirus variant.

The row between the EU and AstraZeneca has contributed to the FTSE 100 falling on Friday. It was set to record its worst week since October, as stalled vaccine rollouts and lockdowns to curb the spread of contagious new coronavirus strains kept investors from jumping into riskier assets.

Reuters reports:

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index dropped 0.9%, with energy and mining stocks being top drags for the week, while the mid-cap index fell 0.7%.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca fell 3.6% for the week and was one of the top drags on the blue-chip index on Friday, as a tussle with the European Union on vaccine rollouts continued to weigh on the stock.

Further on the EU/AstraZeneca contract saga, Brussels insisted on Friday that UK manufacturing plants should be used to help supply doses of the AstraZeneca jab to the European Union.

Eric Mamer, chief spokesperson for the European commission, said:

We have always said that indeed there are a number of plants which are mentioned in the contract that we have with AstraZeneca, some of which are located in the UK, and it is foreseen that these plants will contribute to the effort of AstraZeneca to deliver doses to the European Union.

There is absolutely no question for us that this is what the contract specifies.

There have been a further 546 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 190,940.

Public Health Wales reported another 29 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,695.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has accused Nicola Sturgeon of potentially putting lives at risk after Scotland’s first minister said she would re-publish vaccine supply figures that were removed from public circulation following concerns from the UK government

Scotland’s plan for the distribution of coronavirus vaccinations was taken offline earlier in January after the UK government raised concerns that the document included sensitive details about vaccine supply.

The Office for national Statistics (ONS) has published its latest Coronavirus Infection Survey, with estimates for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

In England, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus “remains high” in the week ending 23 January 2021, the survey states, estimating that 1,018,700 people within the community population in England had Covid-19, equating to around 1 in 55 people.

Related: Covid rate in UK has levelled off but remains high, ONS data shows

This from ITV’s Robert Peston:

You can download the AstraZeneca vaccines contract with the EU here. The most interesting bit is the definition of "best reasonable efforts" to deliver the doses.

"economic impact, across the world but taking into account efficacy and safety". The stress on the "urgent need for a vaccine" will be exploited by Brussels to say that AZ must do more to supply the promised 80m doses in the next two months. But AZ will point to the…

explicit conditionality.

More from the BBC’s Faisal Islam on the meaning of this paragraph, who highlights that paragraph 5.1 contains the words “Initial Europe Doses”.

The first part of the sentence goes:

AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the Initial Europe Doses within the EU for distribution”.

Leave it to the lawyers – but it seems 5.1 mandates AZ to manufacture “initial Europe doses” within EU and that the reference to the UK being considered as EU manufacture is specifically limited to 5.4…

Under paragraph 5.4, the contract states under the heading “Manufacturing Sites”:

AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the vaccine at manufacturing sites located in the EU (which, for the purpose of this section 5.4 only shall include the United Kingdom).

This from the BBC’s Faisal Islam:

“Best reasonable efforts”… defined… contract included the UK as EU manufacturing for purposes of a clause seeking to keep manufacture mainly in Europe…

Under paragraph 1.9, headlined “Best Reasonable Efforts means”, it says:

(a) in the case of AstraZeneca, the activities and degree of effort that a company of similar size with a similarly-sized infrastructure and similar resources as AstraZenece would undertake or use in the development and manufacture of a Vaccine at the relevant stage of development or commercialization having regard to the urgent need for a Vaccine to end a global pandemic which is resulting in serious public health issues, restrictions on personal freedoms and economic impact, across the world but taking into account efficacy and safety; and

(b) in the case of the Commission and the Participating Memeber States, the activities and degree of effort that government would undertake or use in supporting their contractor in the development of the Vaccine having regard to the urgent need for a Vaccine to end a global pandemic which is resulting in serious public health issues, restrictions on personal freedoms and economic impact, across the world.

This from the New York Times’ Matina Stevis-Gridneff:

Page 40 annex of Schedule totally redacted, can’t see volumes of promised deliveries.

The definition of "best reasonable effort" is laid out in the contract preamble paragraph 1.9 page 3 of the pdf. Let’s get lawyers to opine on the kind of cover it provides to the company and if it matches what its CEO says it does.

For those who asked yesterday, the contract is under Belgian law. See PDF page 32 paragraph 18.4

The European commission has confirmed pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has published its vaccine contract, Sky News reports.

The contract can be found here.

AstraZeneca has agreed to publish the redacted contract signed between the two parties on August 27 2020. We welcome the company’s commitment towards more transparency in its participation to the rollout of the EU vaccine strategy.

Transparency, and accountability, are important to help build trust of European citizens and to make sure they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at EU level.

A campaign for transport workers to be given priority for the coronavirus vaccine is being stepped up after research revealed concerns about safety on buses.

PA Media reports:

A survey of 900 bus workers found that four out of five believed enforcement of face coverings on bus services was inadequate. Almost as many said there was no proper enforcement of social distancing on buses.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its survey suggested that fewer than one in 10 bus workers believed enforcement of social distancing and face coverings was taken as seriously on the bus network as it is on the railways.

For those of you wondering how the Novavax vaccine, if approved, would work, PA Media reports that it would be given in two doses.

An advantage of the vaccine over the jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, is that the Novavax jab is stable for up to three months in a normal fridge.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said there will be studies to ensure the Covid-19 vaccine is safe for children, adding that the government’s strategy would at some point turn into an endeavour to use vaccinations “to reduce the circulation of the virus within society”, instead of using it primarily to ease the burden on the NHS and prevent deaths as currently the case.

Asked if he thinks there will be a time when children will be vaccinated, he told BBC Breakfast:

Well, absolutely. As you know, most vaccines are given to children because most infections affect children early in life more than adults, so we’re used to using vaccines in children.

And we are in fact just embarking on several studies of these vaccines, initially in teenagers from the age of 12, and then younger children after that.

Mark Drakeford further said on Friday that the youngest pupils could begin returning to primary schools in Wales after the February half-term, subject to infection rates falling further.

When asked why this was earlier than in England and Northern Ireland, the first minister told BBC Breakfast:

Because the context is different. Today we have 175 people in Wales for every 100,000 contracting coronavirus. In England a couple of days ago the average was 350, and our 170 figure is falling every day, so you can see the context is very different.

We want to take advantage of that. Our children and young people have had a torrid time over the last 12 months, they are missing out on education every week.

Related: Wales aims to reopen primary schools after February half-term

First minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday that the Welsh government was asked not to publish data of the supplies of Covid-19 vaccines by the UK government.

He told Sky News:

We were about to publish figures here in Wales – we publish more data than would be the case across our border in England. We were asked not to by the UK government. There’s a lot of sensitivity at the moment, as you know, across the whole of Europe about supplies of vaccine.

While the UK government tells us that it would not be sensible, we will take that advice seriously. We’re not going to publish it at the moment. As soon as it’s safe to do so and right to do so, we will put that information into the public domain.

Junior minister Lucy Frazer defended the decision to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to the UK’s elderly population after a German health advisory board warned against giving the company’s jab to anyone over the age of 65.

She told BBC Breakfast:

The position of the safety of the vaccine has been looked at very closely by our regulator, the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency], and they have looked very carefully at the scientific evidence and the studies and have concluded that it is appropriate to vaccinate the over-65s.

Interestingly, there was an article in The Lancet when the AstraZeneca vaccine was at its stage two trials which said very clearly that it was safe in that age range.

The government isn’t hiding anything at all. My understanding is that is for security reasons. But I think we’ve been incredibly transparent throughout since March, since the beginning of this pandemic, about how the government is dealing with every aspect of the coronavirus.

I think we have been extremely transparent, where it is appropriate to do so, to inform the public about how we are managing the pandemic.

This from the government’s chief medical adviser Chris Whitty on the Novavax vaccine:

A highly effective vaccine to add to the medical countermeasures against COVID-19 trialed in the UK. If it gets MHRA approval this increases our future resilience, including against the B.1.1.7 variant. Many thanks to all trial volunteers and those who conducted the research.

Junior minister Lucy Frazer has described AstraZeneca’s dispute with the EU as a “commercial matter”, but added that the UK will help neighbouring countries “where we can”.

Asked about the ongoing row about supplies, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

That is a commercial matter between AstraZeneca and the EU. But we are confident that the supplies that we have put in place with AstraZeneca, which will help us to reach our target of vaccinating everybody by the autumn, we are confident that we will get the supplies for that.

We have done a great deal of work in the UK to help support the supply chain and the manufacturing base to ensure that we have sufficient supplies within this country.

But, as I said, our priority is to ensure we vaccinate people in the UK, but of course, where we can help our friends and neighbours, we would do that.

One of the most recent updates to the list, made on November 6 last year, included Dabigatran etexilate and Semaglutide. The first acts as a blood thinner, and has been used to try and combat what a UK-based intensive care doctor described as a “stickiness” in the blood experienced in some Covid-19 cases. The other, semaglutide, has previously been used for treating strokes, but doctors believe it could help ease the impact of Covid-19 on patients’ hearts.

Kate Bingham further said that there needs to be a quicker way of administering inoculations, including by allowing people to self-administer pills, patches and nasal sprays, in order to speed up the process of immunising the population.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We need to improve the vaccine formats because, frankly, two injections delivered by healthcare professionals is not a good way of delivering vaccines.

We need to get vaccine formats which are much more scalable and distributable, so, whether they are pills or patches or nose sprays, we need to find better ways of developing and delivering vaccines, and we’ll do that in collaboration, just as we’ve been doing that over the last few months.

Kate Bingham, former chairwoman of the government’s Vaccine Taskforce, said the UK had got ahead in its vaccination supply by starting production early.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I’m not going to get into the details of the contacts but one of the things the CEO of AZ [AstraZeneca] did not mention is that we actually started scaling up manufacture of the Oxford vaccine from February.

So, yes, we signed the contract, or agreed terms with AZ, in May, but actually the work to scale up the manufacturing started months before that, and it is that early work that was done by the industry – voluntarily, not based on contracts or requirements but a voluntary coalition of the different companies.

We are interdependent and I don’t think that the idea that there are going to be trade barriers is something that we should be considering.

The EU’s contract with AstraZeneca for its Covid-19 vaccine contains binding orders, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday, as the row between the bloc and the vaccine maker over supply shortages affecting EU member states entered the next round.

Von der Leyen told Deutschlandfunk radio the best-effort delivery clause in the contract was only valid as long as it was not clear whether AstraZeneca could develop a vaccine, and added that the EU would seek to publish the contract today.

Jens Spahn, German health minister, says he does not expect the EMA to give "unrestricted approval" to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the NHS stood ready to roll out the Novavax vaccine if it were approved, which he said would provide a “significant boost to our vaccination programme and another weapon in our arsenal to beat this awful virus”.

The jab would be delivered in the second half of 2021 if it received MHRA approval.

The lockdown currently in place in Wales will remain in force in for another three weeks, first minister Mark Drakeford will confirm.

The PA reports:

He is also expected to say on Friday that primary school pupils may be able to begin returning to their desks after the February half-term if coronavirus rates continue to fall.

The Welsh government said the Covid-19 situation is “improving” but another three weeks of Level 4 restrictions are needed to “allow the NHS to recover”.

The first minister of the devolved administration in Wales has said teachers would only be prioritised for a vaccine if an official regulatory panel changed its advice.

Referring to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Mark Drakeford said: “We follow the advice of the JCVI. If the committee tell us to prioritise teachers, that is what we will do.

Good morning.

Another Covid vaccine, developed by the US firm Novavax and trialled in the UK, has been shown to be nearly 90% effective and to work against the UK and South African variants of the virus.

Good news that the @Novavax vaccine has proved effective in UK trials. Thank you to all the volunteers who made these results possible.

Our medicines regulator will now assess the vaccine, which will be made in Teesside. If approved, we have 60m doses on order.

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