End mass jabs and live with Covid, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce

End mass jabs and live with Covid, NHS, Covid-19
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The ex-head of the vaccine taskforce in the UK has said its time to end mass jabs and to live with Covid-19, and to treat it as an endemic virus similar to flu. Dr Clive Dix said its time for a major rethink of Covid-19 strategy.

Dr Dix has said that the vaccination campaign should end with the booster, returning the country to a new normality. A similar call has been made by health chiefs and senior Conservative Party members who are lobbying for a post-pandemic plan that will allow the country to move beyond the pandemic.

Dr Dix said: “We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary. Mass population-based vaccination in the UK should now end.”


Continuing he called on ministers to look urgently into Covid immunity research beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). He believes this could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

The call from Dr Dix comes as the UK revealed that more than 150,000 people had died across the UK after contracting the virus. Official figures on Saturday showed that another 313 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted in response: “Coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on our country and today the number of deaths recorded has reached 150,000. Each and every one of those is a profound loss to the families, friends and communities affected and my thoughts and condolences are with them.”

He added: “Our way out of this pandemic is for everyone to get their booster or their first or second dose if they haven’t yet.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the death toll was a “dark milestone for our country”.

Patient safety and the ability of the NHS to cope this winter is of major concern at the moment with so many staff self-isolating after catching the more virulent Omicron strain of the virus. Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said that the pandemic had exposed “its weakest links” and that a million more care workers will be needed by the end of the decade.

Referring to his call to end mass jabs he said in an article in the Observer: “There is a clear, regrettable, impact on quality of care and, in the most pressured parts of the system, a worrying increase in patient safety risk. It is now very clear that the NHS and our social care system do not have sufficient capacity. That asking staff to work harder and harder to address that gap is simply not sustainable. That we need a long-term, fully funded, workforce plan to attract and retain the extra one million health and care staff the Health Foundation estimates will be needed by 2031.”

A call for action has also been made by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: “The pandemic has highlighted workforce pressures but they were never new. We can’t solve them overnight, but we have a moral duty to NHS and care staff to look them in the eye after the hell of the last two years and say a long-term plan is in place.”

Hopson has indicated that some NHS trusts outside London would see Covid hospitalisations rise even higher than their previous record peak last year saying: “There are already a number of trusts whose Covid hospitalisation levels are at 100% of their January 2021 peak. That’s before they are anywhere near their current peaks. These organisations are likely to be 10 days or two weeks away from their peak this time round.”

Stephen Chandler, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said that social care was in a “national emergency” because so many staff were off sick. That had led to as many as 40% of care homes no longer taking in people making it difficult to discharge patients.

A government spokesperson said “historic amounts of funding” were being provided for NHS backlogs and social care, adding: “Hospital admissions are rising, however this is not yet translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves. We’re increasing NHS capacity by building onsite Nightingale hubs, as well as creating 2,500 virtual beds where people can be safely treated at home.”

The remarks by Dr Dix follow the ruling by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who ruled that fourth doses were not currently needed because the majority of those who had received boosters were still well-protected against Omicron, three months after the booster campaign began..

Dix who was instrumental in helping pharmaceutical firms create the Covid vaccines that have transformed the risk to most people, said the UK need to get into a position of “managing Covid” in the same way we do in a bad influenza season.

Professor Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Everything depends on whether another variant comes up.

“A fourth dose or second booster of the existing vaccine probably isn’t going to achieve very much. The evidence is that immunity against severe disease is much longer lasting. The only justification for doing a second booster for the majority of the population would be if we saw clear evidence of people, five or six months after their booster, ending up in hospital with severe Covid.”

Health officials have expressed concern that many will have had the booster purely to protect their Christmas celebrations and that people will  be less likely to want to be vaccinated again. That in its own may put an end to mass jabs and to start to live with Covid, that is unless another more dangerous variant comes along.

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