Saturday, 13 February 2021

Gloriously missing the point.

From the BBC:

Vaccines and treatments could mean that - by the end of the year - Covid-19 is an illness we can live with "like we do flu", the health secretary has said. Matt Hancock told the Daily Telegraph he hoped new drugs by the end of 2021 could make Covid a "treatable disease". The drugs - and vaccines - represent "our way out to freedom", he said.

This appears to be the majority opinion nowadays and nothing controversial. Can't fault him for saying it out loud. But...

Dr Sarah Pitt, a virologist at the University of Brighton, told the BBC: "It's not a type of flu. It's not the same sort of virus. It doesn't cause the same sort of disease, it's very, very nasty."

Duh. Of course it's not a type of 'flu or the same virus, he didn't say anything of the sort. Industrial accidents aren't like car crashes. A fight outside a pub is not like a climbing accident. Heart attacks are not like cancer. His point was that we have to accept a certain level of injury, hospitalisation and death. We focus our efforts on reducing those risks which are easiest/cheapest to reduce, but there's a cost-benefit analysis and there are residual risks that would be too difficult/expensive to reduce any further. And yes, the disease can be "very, very nasty", but so can 'flu.
On a related matter, the UK seems to have really got its act together with these vaccinations. The 15 million in the four highest risk categories will have had, or at least been offered, their first jab within the next week or two.

What is not clear to me is what is the best thing to do next (and whether the government has even made up its mind):
a) Spend a month or two giving these people their second jab (and make everybody else in the next, lower risk categories wait for their first jab) or,
b) Let the people in the first four categories wait another few months for their second jab and offer people in the next categories their first jab?

It's a very finely balanced calculation and depends on all sorts of assumptions about probability, cost of outcomes and weightings. My gut feeling is that a) is better, just in case Pfizer are right and there shouldn't be more than 12 weeks between jabs. I suppose the question is, what is the likely total number of hospitalisations/deaths under either course of action (which I don't know, probably nobody knows)?


decnine said...

Depends a lot on the anticipated supply of vaccine. It seems that the UK capacity to put vaccine into arms exceeds the present supply. So, if increased supply is expected a+b may be possible.

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, agreed on the limiting factor. But whatever the daily capacity, the same question arises.

tolkein said...

For the Oxford vaccine, 11-12 weeks between doses seems optimal, as far as I can read.
For the Pfizer, the JCVI seems convinced that longer than 3 weeks is the way to go, as one dose gives a lot of protection and, according to quite a few vaccine experts - but not all, and I may be persuading myself, but I'm not a natural Tory - it would be astonishing if the immune response doesn't carry on building, so 11-12 weeks looks the way to go if vaccine supplies are constrained, and you want to cut deaths as much ass possible.

Mark Wadsworth said...

T, does that mean you would choose option a)?

tolkein said...

Given the constraints on vaccine supplies, I'd go for (, get as many jabs in arms as possible, but prioritise after 50+ year olds shop workers, delivery drivers, bus drivers.

Mark Wadsworth said...

T, so you'd go for b)? Good list of priorities though.