Health Matters – September 2022

Seven Issues in this month’s Health Matters

  • September = Vaccinations Month
  • Covid Update
  • New Cancer Treatments
  • Shoulders etc

1. It’s Vaccination Month – just as we equate January to New Year we can also equate September to Vaccinations! So let’s discuss both the Flu Vaccination and the Covid Booster!

For the last two years we’ve had dire predictions of “Twindemics” – a combination hit of both Flu and Covid over winter. And for two years it hasn’t happened! Although Covid went up Flu has been relatively light mainly because of social distancing, hygiene, and avoiding enclosed spaces. So will we get away with it again this winter? Probably not if the evidence of flu in Australia is anything to go by! There are three reasons for this:

  • We’re “living with Covid” now and therefore will be more exposed to a flu virus than in the last two years; and
  • Not having had flu for a couple of years means our natural resistance is low;

But the big indicator is the flu season in Australia and New Zealand; being in the southern hemisphere it’s the equivalent of late March there right now. Last year in Australia there were nearly 600 cases of flu; this year it’s been over 217,000 cases!

So – in three simple words – “you’ve been warned!”

Flu vaccinations are already being offered by our local GP Surgeries and are available through many local Pharmacies. Here are the eligibility criteria; people who

  • Were over 50 on March 31 2022
  • With long term health conditions (there is a full list, so you can check it at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/
  • Are pregnant
  • In long stay residential care
  • Are a Carer
  • Living with someone with certain health conditions (same link)
  • Front line Health & Social Care Workers.

And as far as children are concerned – all children between 2 and 17 are automatically eligible for a nasal spray, or a flu jab if the spray is not suitable for them. Children below 2 are eligible if they have a long term condition.

Your Surgery may well have contacted you already – book with your Surgery or a Pharmacy as soon as you can.

2. Covid Booster and Update

It’s a natural progression to go from Flu Vaccinations to the Covid Booster ….. And from the beginning of this month, eligible people started to receive the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that have improved immunity against the Omicron variant.

In the first cohort were People in Care Homes, the staff, and vulnerable patients who are housebound; this amounts to around 4,000 people locally. After that, it was the over 75s and other health & social care staff (12,000 locally) and then it’s effectively everyone over 50 together with selected groups:

  • 5-49 in a clinical risk group or living with someone with immunosuppression
  • Pregnant women
  • Carers aged 16-49
  • Care home residents
  • Health & Social care workers

In general terms, you’ may need to wait for 6 months from your Spring Booster and your Surgery will contact you. Autumn Boosters will be delivered by Surgeries and Pharmacies.

And now let’s turn to the Covid numbers locally. I reported last month we hit a new peak on July 15th2,829 per 100,000. Well after that we dropped to 309 on August 12th and since then have gone up to

  • 371 in St Albans; that compares to
  • 376 in Welwyn-Hatfield and
  • 383 in Potters Bar
  • 447 in Hemel Hempstead, and
  • 525 in Watford.

The good news is that the numbers in hospital are down on last month’s figure

  • In the Lister they’re down from 38 to 21, and
  • In Watford from 61 to 25
  • NB they were in the 70s two months ago!

3. New Cancer Treatments

In the last month a fascinating new cancer treatment has been found, and it involves patients for whom immunotherapy hasn’t worked in the past. Let me explain

When surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy options have been exhausted then Oncologists turn to immunotherapy which involves using the immune system to target and kill cancer cells. But many cancers are able to evolve and defend themselves. This recent discovery involves the use of a combination of two drugs that overcome the cancer cell’s ability to protect itself and hide.

Cancer cells produce a molecule that stops our normal cells from recognising them as a threat. But the first drug – pembrolizumab – blocks the cancer cell’s ability to hide and then attacks it. The second drug – guadecitabine – then switches off an enzyme that prevents gene transcription, and so the antibodies that we need to control the cancer can be generated.

The process has been used successfully on lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancers.

Oh, and while we’re on Prostate Cancer, take a minute to remember Bill Turnbull. Men over 50 can get a PSA test for prostate; so if you’re a man, and your waterworks are playing up, get the test and catch it early. My doctor once said to me, “If you’re going to get a cancer the prostate one is the best to get!” as long as you catch it early.

4. Shoulders Elbows Hips & Knees

As our listener may remember, at the St Albans Podcast we’re hosting a range of webinars called Health Matters; our last one, before the summer break, was in July where we had over 600 people on an HRT webinar. Our latest webinar, on Shoulders Elbows Hips and Knees, was absolutely fascinating; if, dear listener, you have any pain in any of those joints, then PLEASE take a look at the recording which is

One of things many of us get from time to time is elbow pain – I know people who get tennis elbow or golf elbow, and yet don’t play either sport; Mr Patel’s answer was fascinating and fully explained the symptoms, and the causes! If you want the lowdown click on the recording and go to 21 minutes in! It’s all down to the epicondyles. Golf affects the inner whilst tennis affects the outer!

Alan Bellinger
21st  September 2022

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.

2 Comments

  1. 23rd September 2022

    I recently made a presentation on the Use of Neurobic exercises to enhance the retention of memory and also to prevent memory loss. This was at the Health and Wellbeing event in Potters Bat on the 2nd of September. This was followed by a similar presentation at the Library, The Maltings, St Albans on the 9th September. Both events were well-attended and successful.
    I understand that Viviene Arey the Potters Bar event organiser was intending to contact you about my work with people in the community.
    I have a website http://www.battledementia.co.uk where my Neurobic exercises resources can be viewed and used free of charge. In fact all my servicers are offered free and I organise workshops at care homes and dementia cafes in Hertfordshire.
    My resources are featured in the ‘Wellbeing during COVID’ section on the Alzheimer’s Disease International website.
    I hope you will find my contributions of interest and I look forward to hearing from you long with any comments and suggestions.

    Thank you for your time

    Best regards

    Gareth Rowlands

    32 Maslen Road
    St Albans
    Herts AL9 7BW

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