Health Matters – July 2021

We’re looking to provide answers to these questions this week:
• What does Lockdown Easing really mean?
• What’s happening to the Numbers Locally?
• Should I wear a Mask?

What is Herd Immunity?
Should children be vaccinated?
What’s the problem with Test & Trace?

And we’ll also cover
• Children’s Allergies

1. Lockdown Easing – I discussed the whole situation with Prof Jim McManus (HCC Dir. Of Public Health) last Tuesday – he described the situation perfectly – “We need to learn to live with the virus and make it a manageable proposition”. He described how there are three phases of dealing with a virus such as Covid – Respond; Recover; Re-think. And, after 18 months, we’ve just entered the Recover phase.

So as from this week the whole strategy has changed; that’s really down to the fact that so many people are now vaccinated in Hertfordshire (and indeed throughout the UK) that it means that Covid, whilst it’s still transmissible, isn’t anywhere near as dangerous as in the previous waves.

In the past we called this strategy “herd immunity” – but Jim hated the term; he refers to population Immunity instead.

According to Jim there are four things we need to do right now
Learn to Live with Covid – and make sure you’re as safe as possible.
Build confidence in managing risk – Jim’s trick, if you’re in an enclosed space assume there is at least one person there with Covid and act with caution
Support people suffering from grief and mental health issues;
Prepare for the long haul – it’ll be at least two years according to Jim before we enter that Rethink Phase! And the big danger is new variants
At the moment, 97% of infections in the UK are the Delta or Indian Variant; but there are two others that are of concern – a French Variant of the Beta (South African variant), and Lambda – a variant that was first identified in Peru and is now in 38 countries (including the UK).

2. Covid Numbers – remember how, all through the pandemic when we’ve looked at numbers we always said that St Albans wasn’t being hit as bad as other areas of the county? That’s no longer the case! Our current case rate in St Albans is over 500 per 100,000 – and it’s up by around 20% on the week. Whereas the Hertfordshire average is around 350!

But that’s really not the key metric to be looking at in this “living with Covid era” – Hospital numbers are a far better metric – and at the last count there are 24 in Watford and 10 in Stevenage.

3. Should I still wear a Mask? – the answer is you need to keep yourself – and others safe. Jonathon Van-Tam hd the answer with the “3Cs”
* Crowded Places
* Close Contact
* Confined Spaces

So if you find yourself in any of these areas then yes – to protect yourself and others I am certainly going to wear my mask!

4. Population Immunity – a much better term than “Herd Immunity” is really the goal now – the effective roll-out of the vaccines has meant that we’ve protected the most vulnerable in developing immunity and, although it sounds callous, the lack of immunity now rests on younger people who suffer less from the virus. Many young people I know say “I want to get it – that way I build my resistance to it!”

But there’s still that concern over the fact the the vaccines aren’t 100% effective and therefore we still need to protect the vulnerable.

5. So should children be vaccinated? – this is a difficult question and the JVCI has taken a cautious approach; the core of the issue is this …… “should you vaccinate children in order to protect adults?”; and that’s a real ethical diemma!

The JVCI has come down to this. At the moment:
* Within 3 months of your 18th Birthday – you’re eligible for the jab now; this is to protect people who are going to university or starting work.
* 16-17 at higher risk – can be vaccinated under current regulations.

And the new recommendations should be eligible for the jab (which the Government haven’t accepted yet):
* 12-17 living with extremely vulnerable people having a suppressed immune system; and
* 12-15 with severe neurodisability, Down’s Syndrome, weakened immune system, or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

6. Test & Trace – with the rise in infections there’s a consequent rise in people being pinged! The problem is simple – Test & Trace applies rule that were appropriate when we were in Lockdown but aren’t any more! The Government is talking about relaxing the rukes for certain essential workers, but that’s really tinkering with the problem. The answer is simple – link it to an antibody test which will show if people have built up immunity. But they’re not taking that step yet!

7. Vaccinations – In Hertfordshire the vaccination numbers are good and there is less than a 15% gap between the best and worst groups in terms of vaccine take-up. And you can walk-in to the Alban Arena all this week if you still need a jab (it’s the Pfizer vaccine each day apart from Friday which is Astra Zeneca.)

8. Children’s Allergies – last week I hosted a fascinating webinar on Children’s Allergies. If you have a child in your family with an allergy this is a must watch video! You’ll learn about
• The linkage between allergies and eczema
• How to identify if a child is having an allergic reaction;
• The impact on family life of having a child with an allergic reaction;
• Managing allergies effectively;
• How babies develop an allergic reaction?
• How management of allergic reactions has changed.
You can view the webinar here

Alan Bellinger
July 21 2021

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.