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What are the arguments in favour of reducing the gap between doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to 3-4 weeks?

Early on during the pandemic, the UK government took the decision to give second doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine after 12 weeks rather than the recommended 3-4 weeks. It has now reduced the gap to 8 weeks and is considering reducing the gap to 3-4 weeks. What are the arguments in favour of reducing the gap between doses to 3-4 weeks? 1. Giving the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine 3-4 weeks apart is in line with the manufacturer’s guidance. 2. This is what most other countries using the Pfizer vaccine are doing. 3. Evidence from randomised controlled trials and subsequent evidence from real-world data provides strong evidence that two doses of Pfizer vaccine given 3-4 weeks apart provide excellent protection against severe disease. 4. Data from PHE in England shows that two doses of vaccine provide much better protection against the delta variant than one dose. Hence, giving second doses after 3-4 weeks instead of after 8-12 weeks could help reduce the current ratee of infection in
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Why we should continue to wear face masks

The government’s chief medical officer says he will continue to wear a face mask when appropriate. We should follow his example. Covid-19 is an infection that is largely spread indoors – particularly in crowded, poorly ventilated areas – through inhaling droplets and aerosols produced by infected people when they cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe. Face masks are a simple method of reducing the risk of infection – but only if they are worn by large numbers of people. The main function of a mask is to reduce the emission of droplets from infected people into the air. The droplets are captured by the mask and hence less virus enters the air. Much of the benefit of wearing face masks goes to other people but they can also benefit the wearer, particularly if a high-specification mask is worn that filters out more droplets when the wearer breathes in air.  Wearing face masks will reduce the spread of the coronavirus and help protect others. This is very important in settings where we are

Lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in England - What are the implications for public health?

  Why are all restrictions being lifted even though Covid cases are rising? The number of cases of Covid-19 has been increasing since May and there are now nearly 30,000 cases each day in the UK. In the past, such a high number of cases would have led to a large number of people admitted to hospital and also an increase in deaths. Fortunately, because of vaccination, the number of people with a severe Covid-19 illness is now much lower than previously. For example, in the last week, there have been around 20 deaths per day on average from Covid-19 across the UK. This compares to more than 1,000 deaths per day during some days in January. The number of hospital admission is also low, with around 300 hospital admission each day in the UK. The government believes that vaccination is breaking the link between the number of cases and the number of people with severe illness; and it therefore safe to end Covid-19 restrictions in England on 19 July. The government accepts that the number of

Testing for Covid-19 in schools in place of isolation for case contacts

 More than 375,000 pupils in England are currently are out of school for Covid-related reasons, an increase of more than 130,000 in a week. Not being at school is very disruptive for children’s education and their social development, and also for their families. The government is therefore considering other options for managing children in whom there has been a Covid-19 case in their school bubble. This could include daily testing  rather than exclusion from school. If the policy for children does change, it is likely to start in the new school term in September.   Will there be regular testing in schools even without any positive cases? The current policy of testing secondary school children twice each week is likely to continue in the new school year in September. This will be the case even in schools where there are no cases.   What will happen someone in my child’s class tests positive? Currently, everyone in the class and the wider school bubble is excluded from school

Why foreign travel rules are important during the Covid-19 pandemic

The rapid spread of the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) in the UK in recent weeks shows the importance of foreign travel rules, such as on testing, immunisation and quarantine, to limit the import of Covid-19. Countries need to look at their own situation and put in place the most appropriate rules for them. This will including rules on Covid-19 testing for inbound and outbound travellers, and when and for how long travellers should quarantine; as well as guidance on whether travellers who are fully immunised can be exempted from some of these rules.  Holidays in foreign destinations carry risks. Settings such as restaurants, bars, night clubs and indoor concert venues have all been linked to large outbreaks of Covid-19. We all need to do our part to reduce these risks when we travel by following the local rules on social distancing and on the use of other preventive measure such as wearing face masks; and ensuring we get tested if we have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been ca

Questions and answers about Covid-19 vaccination in children

Countries globally are considering the implementation of Covid-19 vaccination programmes for children. In this article for the Daily Mirror , Matt Roper and I answer some of the common questions from parents about Covid-19 vaccination for children.  I'm worried about vaccinating my child - how safe is it? Clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in children aged 12-15 years in the UK and USA confirm that the vaccines are very safe. The rate of side effects in children in these studies was similar to that seen in young adults. As in young adults, most side effects were mild to moderate, such as a sore arm or tiredness.   Will children need two jabs like adults? Children will need two doses of vaccine because this provides much better protection against serious illness than one dose of vaccine.   How likely is it they will suffer from side effects? The most common side effects in children aged 12 to 15 years of age are pain at the injection site (> 90%), tiredness and h

Extending the duration of Covid-19 control measures in England

There will be a lot of disappointment about the 4-week delay to the relaxation of Covid-19 control measures in England until 19 July that was announced today by the Prime Minister. But it is the right decision. A delay of a few weeks allows more people to be fully vaccinated with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccination programme in the UK is progressing well; with 79% of adults in the UK having received one dose of a vaccine and with 57% who have received two doses. But this still leaves many adults unvaccinated, including some people in the 50+ age groups who are at highest risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death.  The delta variant in circulation in the UK appears to be more infectious and more likely to result in an illness severe enough to require hospitalisation than other strains of SARS-CoV-2; and now accounts for the vast majority of Covid-19 infections. One dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is less effective in preventing symptomatic infection from the delta stra