Covid-19

  • Breastfeeding is tough: new research shows how to make it more manageable
    Jacob Lund/Shutterstock The benefits of breastfeeding are wide-ranging and life-changing. Breast milk contains antibodies that reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diarrhoea and ear infections. Breastfed infants are hospitalised less frequently than infants who are not. In later life, breastfed children and less likely to be overweight and have higher IQs. And women who have…
  • Relaxing restrictions hasn’t made COVID cases spike – but this doesn’t mean herd immunity has arrived
    Varavin88/Shutterstock Back in the summer of 2021, the UK government’s pandemic modellers predicted that there would be a significant COVID outbreak in the autumn. Yet so far, this hasn’t happened. Other countries with good COVID vaccine coverage have also seen their cases fall and then stabilise. So is herd immunity finally arriving? Reaching a level…
  • North Korea’s costly COVID response is pushing Kim Jong-un to play political games
    In April 2020, I wrote about North Korea’s efforts to protect itself from COVID-19. The regime was genuinely afraid about the spread of the disease because it knew the country’s healthcare system wouldn’t cope if the virus took hold. Initially there was acceptance that, for the most part, North Korea hadn’t witnessed an outbreak as…
  • COVID vaccines: how to speed up rollout in poorer countries
    COVID-19 vaccine production has scaled up significantly. Global output is now estimated to be over 1.5 billion doses a month, rapidly propelling the world towards the 11.3 billion doses needed to vaccinate 80% of teenagers and adults and potentially bring the pandemic to an end. Total output may reach that target by the end of…
  • Smokers were never really protected from COVID, despite what early studies claimed
    Early in the coronavirus pandemic, researchers stumbled on an unexpected finding: smokers seemed to be protected from COVID’s worst effects. Initially discovered on a review of hospitalised patients in China, this “smoker’s paradox” was later reported in studies from Italy and France. But it turns out that this wasn’t true, as a massive study out…
  • COVID vaccines for teenagers: what UK parents need to know amid a new wave of misinformation
    Roman Chazov/Shutterstock The UK has approved giving one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all children aged 12-15, with vaccines largely being given within the education system. Schools are helping coordinate the rollout, including the consent process. Under-16s need parental consent to have the vaccine. Unfortunately, schools, parents and teenagers have also become the…
  • What the world can learn from Bhutan’s rapid COVID vaccine rollout
    NiarKrad/Shutterstock Nearly half the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But figures vary widely between countries. Many low and middle-income countries have barely started their vaccination campaigns. But the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan isn’t one of them. By the end of July, it had fully vaccinated 90% of…
  • COVID smell loss can have profound effects on your life, from weight change to intimacy barriers
    Flotsam/Shuttestock It took a while to be officially recognised, but smell loss eventually became known to be one of the defining features of COVID-19. It’s now widely acknowledged that COVID-19 has a unique effect on smell receptors, and about 10% of those who lose their smell are still reporting problems with smell and taste six…
  • A new oral antiviral drug for COVID is being tested in humans – can it make a difference?
    Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, we still need drugs to treat COVID. Even people who have been double vaccinated stand a small chance of getting COVID and ending up moderately or even severely ill. There are drugs to treat COVID, but they have to be given in hospital. One promising drug that could improve things…
  • Your immune system is as unique as your fingerprint – new study
    Christoph Burgstedt/Shutterstock Every person appears to have a unique immune system. My colleagues and I discovered this immune diversity after charting antibodies in the blood from healthy and sick people. The discovery could help explain why, for example, COVID vaccines appear to be less effective for some people. At the same time, it points to…
  • Long COVID: double vaccination halves risk of developing long-lasting symptoms
    Studio Romantic/Shutterstock In unvaccinated people, around one in 20 who get symptomatic COVID-19 experience symptoms for at least eight weeks. Around one in 50 have symptoms that drag out for three months or more. We wanted to know whether COVID-19 vaccines might protect against developing long-lasting symptoms. To find out, we looked at data provided…
  • COVID crisis: what kind of inquiry do we need to learn the right lessons?
    I solemnly swear … Amer Ghazzal/Alamy Live News Boris Johnson recently announced that a UK inquiry into the government’s handling of COVID-19 will start in 2022 (with a parallel one planned in Scotland), and many more will emerge all over the world. But how should such inquiries be designed and run? It’s highly likely that…
  • Gargling with iodine won’t stop you getting COVID
    Social media is awash with bogus COVID treatments. First, there was hydroxychloroquine, then bleach, followed hard on the heels by ivermectin – a cattle dewormer. The latest on the scene is povidone-iodine, an antiseptic. Some people have claimed on social media that gargling with iodine can prevent the spread and severity of a COVID infection,…
  • Covax misses its 2021 delivery target – what’s gone wrong in the fight against vaccine nationalism?
    The latest supply forecast for Covax – the programme for sharing COVID-19 vaccines around the world – suggests that accelerating vaccination in low-income countries looks unlikely. Covax estimates it will have distributed 1.425 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, significantly less than the 2 billion doses it was aiming for earlier this year.…
  • UK COVID plan: how will the pandemic play out this winter?
    Afanasiev Andrii/Shutterstock Winter is always a challenging time for the NHS. On top of providing routine healthcare, there are the added demands of seasonal illnesses such as flu. There’s also a large backlog this year of healthcare delayed by the pandemic. If COVID-19 hospitalisations spike, then there’s once again a possibility that the NHS could…
  • Q+A: COVID vaccine boosters – who will receive them and why are they being given?
    ShotPrime Studio/Shutterstock After consulting its vaccine advisers, the UK government is launching its much-discussed COVID-19 vaccine booster programme. From the week beginning September 20 2021, a third dose will be offered to all people who were prioritised in the first wave of the UK’s vaccine rollout. This includes all residents and staff of care homes,…
  • COVID vaccine effects wane over time but still prevent death and severe illness
    PIC SNIPE/Shutterstock Several countries – including the UK – are now offering third COVID-19 shots amid reports of vaccines proving less effective over time. But do these countries really need to embark on widespread booster campaigns? Here’s what research tells us so far about how vaccines are performing. One study suggests that after four months…
  • How will the COVID pandemic end?
    After over 18 months of this pandemic, with the social distancing, mask wearing and on-off lockdowns, what we all want to know more than anything else is when it will all be over and how it will end. While nothing is certain, we have a lot of evidence on which to build some realistic expectations…
  • COVID-19: why infection rates among double-vaccinated older adults look worse than they are
    Recently, ITV journalist Robert Peston caught COVID, despite being double vaccinated. This set Peston wondering how common it is for the fully vaccinated to get the disease. His analysis is now complete. The headline is fairly alarming: “Data shows infections high among double vaxxed for those aged 40 to 79.” Although, perhaps not as alarming…
  • COVID-19: further lockdowns unlikely but some winter restrictions are possible
    On July 19 2021, nearly all legal restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 were removed in England. A requirement to isolate at the request of NHS Track and Trace remains for people exposed to an infected person and who aren’t double vaccinated, but other control measures such as the closure of nightclubs and…
  • Here’s what happens when two very different respiratory viruses infect the same cell – new study
    Influenza virus particles. Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock Right now, there’s just one virus on everyone’s minds: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But humanity is plagued by many respiratory viruses, such as influenza A (IAV) and respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV), which cause hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. Most of these viruses – apart from influenza…
  • Four factors that increase the risk of vaccinated people getting COVID
    Kazantseva Olga/Shutterstock Two weeks after your second COVID-19 vaccine dose, the protective effects of vaccination will be at their highest. At this point, you’re fully vaccinated. If you still get COVID-19 after this point, you’ve suffered a “breakthrough” infection. Broadly speaking, breakthrough infections are similar to regular COVID-19 infections in unvaccinated people – but there…
  • Israel was a leader in the COVID vaccination race – so why are cases spiralling there?
    Israel has been one of the focal points of the pandemic in 2021 owing to its rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. By late February, authorities had administered at least one dose to 50% of the population, with much of Israel’s immunisation programme using Pfizer vaccines. Society then in effect reopened across the summer of 2021.…
  • Mu: everything you need to know about the new coronavirus variant of interest
    Lightspring/Shutterstock The World Health Organization (WHO) has added another coronavirus variant to its list to monitor. It’s called the mu variant and has been designated a variant of interest (VOI). What this means is that mu has genetic differences to the other known variants and is causing infections in multiple countries, so therefore might present…
Translate »