Health Matters – December 2021

Three Issues in this month’s Health Matters
• Covid Numbers
• Vaccine Roll-Out
• Covid Pill

1. Covid Numbers – we said last month that our Covid numbers were some of the highest in the country – we peaked on OCT 28th at 736 cases per 100,000 and that was very close to our absolute peak – in January of this year; that was 770. Yesterday the number in St Albans was 709 per 100,000 and that was up from 644 last week. For comparison, the average for Hertfordshire is 602 – so we’re 17% higher than the Hertfordshire average. Bernards Heath is the highest area in St Albans with 774 cases per 100,000.

But let’s put that into context. It was reported yesterday that London is now close to its January peak – in St Albans we’re still 10% below that peak!

And to complete the picture let’s look at hospitalisations – in Watford there are 34 people in hospital with Covid (against 43 last month) and 35 in the Lister (against 36 last month)#

We don’t have a precise handle on the number of Omicron variant cases in St Albans but given that London has now reached 50% it’s inevitable that we will be very close to that figure. Right now, the Omicron variant is doubling every two days – it’s that contagious!

2. Vaccine Position – Here’s the most important piece of information – do not go to a walk-in centre without double checking first – most NHS national vaccination centres in Hertfordshire have stopped doing walk-ins as the number of people turning up is simply not manageable. You can check walk in availability at and you can make an online booking at or call 119 if you do not have Internet access.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday that everyone would be offered an appointment before the end of the year, thousands of new appointments have been added to the national database and many pharmacies are now included for local vaccinations. In addition, your Surgery almost certainly is running a programme too – just wait to be contacted by them as they are offering it to everyone eligible on their books prioritising on clinical need.

And, as a reminder, let’s summarise the new eligibility rules:
• There must be a three-month gap between your second vaccination and your booster jab, otherwise you will not be able to make a booking and staff cannot vaccinate you.
• For people who are 16-18 and pregnant women only have to wait 8 weeks. The same applies to people who are immune-suppressed.
• People aged 18+ who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 must wait for four weeks to have passed after their positive test before having a vaccination.
• People aged between 12 and 18 must wait for 12 weeks after having a positive test before having another vaccination.

Check out your eligibility for a vaccination, see answers to frequently asked questions, or find out how to book your next vaccine here:

3. Covid Pill
The Government has approved a Covid Pill to be offered to people who have Covid; it’s called Molnupiravir and is produced by Merck in the US. It needs to be taken as soon as someone is known to have Covid and it’s taken for 5 days. The first set of trial data showed that the pill is around 50% effective; but a second trial showed that its effectiveness may be as low as 30%. So although it’s been approved in the UK, it has certainly lost some of its lustre!

A second pill is far more promising – it’s made by Pfizer and is called Paxlovid. It is designed to block an enzyme that the coronavirus needs in order to multiply. It is also believed to be effective against Omicron and is roughly 90% effective. It is expected to gain approval early in the New Year once the trial data has been fully reviewed.

These pills are significant in that they are designed to be taken at home and will therefore significantly reduce hospitalisations.

So it’s great to end on a positive note and wish everyone seasons greetings and my very best wishes for a healthy New Year

Alan Bellinger
15th December 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.