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Variants affecting fully vaxxed

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia.
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From BBC host Andrew Marr to neighbours, friends and colleagues, people are catching COVID after double vaccinations. Some are bed-bound for a few days. Some are losing their lives. Medical experts comment on the latest developments on new variant infections post-double vaccination and the rise in cases during crowd gatherings during the Euros.

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Andrew Marr, the BBC television host, was perhaps more vigilant than most in complying with COVID distancing and mask-wearing rules, but that didn’t stop him from contracting COVID after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I wasn’t behaving recklessly – but I did feel pretty much invulnerable,” writes Marr in a personal account of his experience of contracting COVID even after being double vaccinated.

Where did Andrew Marr contract COVID?

“I can’t be sure – but working back, I’m pretty clear I caught the Delta variant of coronavirus during the summit of G7 (Group of Seven) nations, in Cornwall, probably on Sunday 13 June,” wrote Marr.

“It was a long day – up well before 05:00, all the hassle and stress of an outside broadcast, with our guests resolutely refusing to move from their “ring of steel”, then great transport difficulties trying to return to London, meaning I wasn’t home until after 00:00.

“If I felt shattered on the Monday, it was hardly a surprise – but I carried on with life. By Tuesday, I felt I was coming down with a summer cold – sneezing, sore throat, slight headache. But in the middle of hay fever season, it seemed nothing at all ominous,” said the BBC host and political commentator.

Marr said that many of us may think we have superpowers because we have been double vaccinated. And while the vaccine seems to protect very well against admission to hospital – at no point did he have difficulty breathing. But that’s not to say others won’t.

“But that doesn’t mean you can’t become infected. And it doesn’t mean the illness, hiding behind those bland words, ‘mild and moderate symptoms’, won’t be unpleasant. In short, stay cautious, stay safe.”

Andrew Marr, BBC on catching COVID after receiving double vaccinations of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Andrew Marr’s COVID experience has helped the public understand that precautions are still wise even after double vaccination

Why might variants affect fully vaxxed

Marr’s COVID experience occurred just before Public Health England (PHE) had released the latest surveillance data on SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern or under investigation.

“The latest PHE data show that the majority of the 257 people who have died with the Delta variant are over 50 and have had at least one vaccination – nearly half have been fully vaxxed, ” said Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chair, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge. “But this is exactly what we would expect with high coverage by a very effective – but not perfect – vaccine.”

“Many more fully-vaxxed over-50s have died with the Delta variant (118) than unvaxxed under 50s (21), but this is expected due to the very strong risk-gradient with age: an unvaxxed 30 year-old has a lower risk than a fully vaxxed 60-year-old.”

Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chair, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge

“Around a quarter of the deaths are in unvaccinated over-50s, who presumably will have been offered the vaccine. Communities with lower vaccine uptake will be hit hard in current wave,” he said.

Gatherings during Euros linked to rise in COVID cases

If you are self-employed and concerned about how you would support yourself if you contracted COVID and had to take an extended period of time off for work to recover, then you may want to know whether you will be coming in contact with those that have been in large crowds, notably during the Euros.

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia.

“It is very clear that in all three home countries the week on week rate of increase in case numbers was slowing and it did look like we may be seeing case numbers plateauing,” said Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia.

“But in all three countries England, Scotland and Wales there was an obvious surge in case numbers starting about 10 days after that countries first match in the Euros. In England, we saw a jump from about 32% for week ending 20th June (7 days after first match) compared to the previous 7 day period to 74% for week ending 2nd July.” 

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia

Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist, University of Leicester, said, “It’s great that the England football team are winning their games – I’ve seen all their disappointments over the past 40 years. And it’s great that the fans can view the games in ever greater numbers.

“But this is also great for the virus to spread – amongst the younger fans who have not yet been vaccinated, or have just had one dose, or the older fans whose vaccine immunity is now waning,” said Tang.

“It’s great fans can view the games in ever greater numbers. But this is also great for the virus to spread – amongst the younger fans who have not yet been vaccinated, or have just had one dose, or the older fans whose vaccine immunity is now waning.”

Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist, University of Leicester

“With the delta variant we have some useful data – showing that the vaccine protection is not 100% – but is higher against hospitalisation and lower against PCR-confirmed Infections – many of whom don’t need hospitalisation: protection of  60% for AZ and 79% for Pfizer against PCR-confirmed infection,” said Tang.

Credit: Mediavenir
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