More vaccine data needed to avoid Covid divide, report finds
A lack of Covid-19 vaccination data in the UK could cause a dangerous “vaccine divide”, a new report from Policy Exchange states.
In the paper, the think tank says anecdotal evidence suggests uptake has been comparatively lower in economically deprived and ethnically diverse areas, but crucially, more data is needed.
Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for the COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, has commented that his “big worry” is that high national uptake is contrasted by low uptake of the vaccine among ethnic minority communities and that “the virus will very quickly infect that community”.
The NHS has indicated that uptake will need to reach 80% in each local area for the benefits of the vaccine to be felt – with the consequent prospect of eased lockdown restrictions.
If vaccine uptake remains low among these groups with the current strategy, the report says there will be reasonable public health grounds to keep these areas under tighter restrictions while they ease elsewhere – an undesirable situation that would only amplify existing health inequalities.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- Better and more granular data collection. The data must be published weekly and include breakdowns of the offer for vaccination based on ethnicity, sex, precise age, and whether this was accepted or declined.
- Regular monitoring and evaluation of interventions. The Government should publish ongoing, monthly assessments of the impact of interventions to address vaccine hesitancy.
- Dedicated ethnic minorities communications strategy. There should be a much more concerted effort to reach ethnic minority groups, such as a general election-style campaign with sophisticated targeting of particular groups.
- Re-assess the current cohort prioritisation. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) should re-assess its current prioritisation methodology and consider making changes to reflect new data regarding higher mortality risk. This should be cross-referenced with the data on refusal rates once made available.
COVID-19 app for NHS staff launches as restrictions lift
A new app has launched today to support UK hospital staff who have been redeployed to care for COVID-19 patients.
The Acute COVID app has been co-developed by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and its charity CW+, along with health tech company Imagineear Health.
It provides information to healthcare staff via a step-by-step guide, aimed at both doctors and nurses. This includes the different stages of COVID-19 so they have guidance around triage at A&E, hospital admission, in-hospital treatments, and advanced care management.
The app also provides training on non-invasive ventilation. In the first wave of the pandemic the numbers of patients needing this type of ventilation led to staff who would not normally administer this to patients having to do so.
Additionally the app signposts staff to where they can access mental and physical wellbeing support, acknowledging the levels of staff burnout, particularly among frontline staff, the pandemic has created.
The launch of the app comes on the same day England lifts its COVID-19 restrictions, labelled "freedom day" by some. However infection rates have soared in recent weeks and the move has been fiercely opposed by scientists and doctors, both in the UK and abroad.
In a letter published in medical journal The Lancet backed by 1,200 international scientists, experts called the unlocking "a threat to the world", as allowing infection rates to rise enables the virus to mutate and potentially become resistant to the vaccination.
At the weekend the newly appointed health secretary Sajid Javid announced he had tested positive for coronavirus, and both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the chancellor Rishi Sunak are self-isolating.
Meanwhile in the first week of July more than 500,000 alerts were issued by the NHS Covid-19 app telling people they had been exposed to the virus. As a result businesses are considering cutting their opening hours while staff are self-isolating at home. The government has issued guidance saying that fully vaccinated frontline NHS staff in England will be allowed to carry on working even if they've come into contact with someone with COVID-19.