The recent blockade in the UK has significantly reduced the number of coronavirus cases and the number of people admitted to hospital and dying from disease. What the country is currently facing is essentially a race between vaccination and infection. Can you protect people faster than the virus spreads as restrictions are relaxed?
This will always be a balanced behavior. The UK vaccination strategy, which prioritizes the most vulnerable people and lowers their age, is aimed at saving lives first and second slowing spread. This means that as the country opens up, there is a high likelihood of increased infection, primarily in young people who have more social contacts and who have not yet been vaccinated. Hospitalizations and deaths also do not increase sharply, but are expected to increase. Vaccination rates have been high in the vulnerable population and in the elderly, but not everyone gets the vaccine and does not protect everyone.
Dr Anne Cori of Imperial College London, who is modeling the coronavirus outbreak, is uncertain what will happen in the coming weeks, but as the dominant Kent strain could be contagious, it could be examined if the epidemic is growing as the UK moves out of closure. We would expect more cases, but more hospitalizations and deaths as we unlock, she said. All modeling emphasizes the importance of reaching high vaccine coverage before easing restrictions, she said, keeping this third wave to a minimum. More hospitalizations and deaths can be expected if slower vaccine release doesn’t slow relaxation. According to Imperial Modeling, the UK could expect an additional 30,000 coronavirus deaths by June next year.
The situation is delicate enough without throwing new transformations into the equation. The new strains scientists are most concerned about are those that were first discovered in South Africa and Brazil, and are now slightly resistant to the vaccine, such as those found in clusters in the UK. As more people are vaccinated, resistant strains may have an edge over the more susceptible Kent strains and may spread more easily in the UK. Including these vaccine resistant strains is of paramount importance now, even if they arrive. If you lose control over them, you risk compromising all the protection your vaccine program has achieved so far.
According to Cori, it is important to control the import of resistant strains to prevent a sudden surge in infection. New vaccines or boosters for the new strain are expected to be released soon in the fall. Until then, scientists underscore the need to rule out new strains and contain cases, as fewer infections mean less chances for the virus to mutate and become more resistant to the vaccine.
Health officials are looking closely at Israel, the first country to fully vaccinate more than half of the population for the real impact of the vaccination campaign. According to recent data from a small country of 9 million, Pfizer/BioNTech has been very effective in reducing deaths, hospitalizations and infections.
Vaccination drives in the two countries are difficult to compare, but Israel is getting shots every three weeks and is starting to give young people a jab much earlier than Britain. Also, the predominant strain in Israel is the British variant B117.
Eran Segal, a computer biologist at the Weizmann Institute, said on Monday that the R rate (the rate of increase in infections) is still declining, even though Israel, now about 0.6, broke the blockade more than a month ago. He added that since mid-January, the number of daily deaths has decreased by 85%, the number of critically ill patients has decreased by 72%, and daily cases have decreased by 86%.
The Israeli government, fearing more lethal or vaccine-resistant strains of the coronavirus, is strictly restricting incoming foreign travelers. However, so far there have been no signs of new dangerous strains appearing in the unvaccinated Israeli population.
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