We are currently in the in between period between the original end date for COVID restrictions of the 21st June and the new date, 19th July. It’s important for Christians and churches to be alert to what the key factors are that have affected the decision to delay and what needs to happen in order for 19th July restriction lifting to happen.
The basis for coming out of restrictions is that whilst COVID-19 will continue to be in circulation, vaccinations will be effective in reducing transmission, hospitalisations and deaths to such a significant extent that COVID will no longer be a risk. The original end of restrictions was predicated on one jab given significant protection against both transmission and hospitalisation. However, the Delta variant has provide more resistant to immunisation and so it seems that we need to have both doses of Astra-Zeneca or Pfizer to get the necessary benefits.
At last week’s Government briefing, data was shared suggesting that one dose of the vaccine reduces transmission by 26-40% which isn’t enough to make substantial difference. However two doses will reduce transmission by 76 -84% which is substantially better. Meanwhile, a single dose will reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 57-85% and two doses by 85-98%. This is why we are seeing much fewer examples of hospital admissions in the 0ver 65s but are continuing to see significant levels of admissions among those under 65.
Therefore, one aim of the delay was to enable a further drive in vaccination in order to get as many people double dosed as possible. So, the current vaccine figures are causing some concern to those watching them. Rather than seeing a surge in second vaccinations we are currently seeing the numbers dropping off. On the 20th June, 109,408 people received a second dose of the vaccine. That was 70,000 doses fewer than the previous Sunday (we compare week on week to get a like for like comparison because Sundays tend to be lower than other days.
Now I don’t think we need to be too concerned about this for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Government set two targets for the 19th July. The first was to offer all over 18s their first dose and the other was to get to 66% of the adult population with two doses. This week, the focus has been on opening up vaccination to over 18s. One consideration with second doses has been about encouraging people to rebook the second dose at a shorter time gap (8 weeks instead of 12). As yet, there hasn’t been much focus on this. I would expect this to be heavily publicised and for people to get individual notifications encouraging them to rebook as this becomes more central to the plan.
Secondly, it is worth remembering that 2nd doses are directly linked time wise to first doses. We would expect them to correspond to 1st doses 12 weeks ago at the end of March. Nd guess what? They do. By the end of March, we had given a first dose to about 58% of adults corresponding to 59% double dosed now. It is also worth remembering that there was a slow down in first doses at the start of April due to bumpiness in supply. So, unless we take advantage of that drop off to push harder at getting people to move their jab forward by up to 4 weeks we can expect a similar drop off now.
Thirdly, the Government target of 66% is within reach. We are talking about another 3-4 million people or about 140,000 jabs per day which is achievable, although if numbers are dropping may become tight.
With a much higher proportion of people having had 2 jabs and vaccination increasing immunity amongst those in their 40s over the next few weeks, that should help to reduce transmission and slow down the current growth rate of COVID. It should also lead to a substantial reduction in the risk of hospitalisation. This means there are good reasons to be hopeful that we should be able to reach the end of restrictions by the end of July but the race to the finish line remains tight.