Covid-19

  • COVID vaccine weekly: reopening will test the strength of England’s immunity
    England has now lifted nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions. Cases are high and rising, but the country’s vaccine coverage is among the best the world, meaning that the power of vaccines to control the virus will now be firmly put to the test. How will this battle play out? Possibly not very well, argues…
  • COVID: the reason cases are rising among the double vaccinated – it’s not because vaccines aren’t working
    Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, has announced that 40% of people admitted to hospital with COVID in the UK have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. At first glance, this rings very serious alarm bells, but it shouldn’t. The vaccines are still working very well. There are several factors at play…
  • COVID: study finds lower antibody activity against delta variant at single dose – but vaccines still work
    NIAID/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, recently announced that the delta variant is no longer of concern because it now comprises 98% of new cases in the country and is therefore “the normal variant”. This virus has spread to at least 90 countries and is 50% more transmissible than…
  • Vaccines for COVID are much more effective than for flu – and reminding people could drive down hesitancy
    After an incredible start, the UK’s vaccination programme is now slowing down. Over 80 million doses have been administered, but more than 10% of the UK adult population still hasn’t been vaccinated. With COVID-19 cases once again rising, the question of how to boost vaccine uptake among the hesitant is a pressing concern. Previous research…
  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – the forgotten immunisation pioneer
    Visionary: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Jean-Étienne Liotard/Wikimedia Commons The remarkable progress with immunisation against COVID-19 has focused the world’s attention on the brilliance of vaccines. Many people know the story of Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination against smallpox in Gloucestershire nearly 250 years ago. But far fewer have heard of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She…
  • July 19: Three experts share their thoughts on the end of COVID restrictions in England
    DimaBerlin/Shutterstock Zania Stamataki, senior lecturer in viral immunology, University of Birmingham We have worked flat out around the world since COVID struck, to develop, test and deploy the fastest vaccines in the history of humankind. Immunity to coronavirus after natural infection is short-lived, but the approved vaccines are impressively effective. We don’t know the duration…
  • COVID: should you ditch your mask once restrictions are lifted? A philosopher’s view
    Most COVID-19 legal restrictions in England end on July 19. To celebrate, will you punch a stranger in the face? Probably not. And you certainly shouldn’t. Will you wear a mask on the bus after what the government has called “freedom day”? (If you live in London, where masks remain compulsory on public transport, the…
  • COVID vaccine weekly: more vaccinated than unvaccinated Britons are now dying from the coronavirus
    Studio Romantic/Shutterstock Coronavirus vaccines lessen the chance of you getting COVID-19 and massively reduce the risk of developing serious illness and being hospitalised. Yet at the same time, most COVID-19 deaths in England are now currently among the vaccinated. Is this a cause for alarm? Put simply, no, says Kit Yates, senior lecturer in mathematical…
  • England’s lockdown ending may mean people take COVID-19 less seriously – our new research shows why
    Throughout the pandemic, polling data has shown strong public support for lockdowns. However, as someone who studies ambivalence and hypocrisy, I’m aware that finding general support for something sometimes glosses over how people truly feel. For example, ask people just about tax, and most will happily pay less. But ask people just about hospitals, and…
  • Generation COVID: pregnancy, birth and postnatal life in the pandemic
    Looking to the future: Charley and her baby daughter. James Clifford Kent, Author provided What was it like to be pregnant, to give birth and to look after a baby in the middle of a pandemic? For this Insights article, photographer and researcher of visual cultures James Clifford Kent teamed up with developmental psychologist Sarah…
  • COVID-19: how a sense of community can increase vaccine uptake
    Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE If you were asked to list the things people should do to lengthen their lives, what would you say? Most of us would mention things like stopping smoking, exercising regularly or maintaining a healthy weight. While these are undoubtedly important, past research has revealed something quite surprising: our social connections play a larger…
  • COVID: seven reasons mask wearing in the west was unnecessarily delayed
    Perfect Wave/Shutterstock Masks help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, yet masking policies in the west have featured some spectacular policy wrong turns. Here are some. 1. Ignoring Asia Early studies showed that countries (mostly Asian) that made mask-wearing mandatory within 30 days of the first case emerging had dramatically fewer…
  • Are COVID-19 vaccine passports fair?
    At the age of 18 I very excitedly packed my bags and headed off for what turned into two years working on a charity hospital ship off the coast of West Africa. Prior to going I was given a list of vaccinations I needed, including yellow fever, hepatitis B, MMR and tetanus/diphtheria. At the time…
  • COVID: lambda variant is now in 29 countries, but what evidence do we have that it’s more dangerous?
    Peru has the highest number of COVID deaths per capita, by far. For every 100,000 of the population, 596 have died of COVID. This is almost double the next hardest-hit country, Hungary, which has 307 deaths per 100,000 people. There are many reasons Peru has fared so badly in the pandemic. They include a poorly…
  • COVID-19 vaccine boosters: is a third dose really needed?
    The UK is enjoying real success with its COVID-19 vaccine coverage. Around 85% of adults (44.8 million people) have received one vaccine dose and 63% (33 million people) both doses, with around 160,000 doses a day still being administered. Vaccination with two doses helps prevent infection, and in those that do still get infected, lessens…
  • We should treat COVID like norovirus — not the flu
    Photoroyalty/Shutterstock Because COVID symptoms – fever, cough, aches – are similar to flu symptoms, it is tempting to compare the two. Indeed, the UK’s new health secretary, Sajid Javid, recently said: “We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we…
  • COVID: why we should stop testing in schools
    Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced the end of school “bubbles” in England from July 19, following the news that 375,000 children did not attend school for COVID-related reasons in June. Under the current system, if a schoolchild becomes infected with the coronavirus, pupils who have been in close contact with them have to self-isolate…
  • Living with COVID: is now the right time for England to lift all restrictions?
    The remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England will end on July 19, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has announced. Businesses currently closed will be allowed to reopen, attendance limits at events and indoor gatherings will be lifted, and using social distancing and mask wearing to control the spread of the virus will become discretionary. This…
  • COVID: how scientists can help tell if someone caught the virus at a nightclub
    Crowds totalling over 13,000 people were in high spirits at two pilot events in Liverpool at the Circus nightclub and the Sefton Park Pilot music festival in early May. These were part of the UK’s Events Research Programme, giving audiences a taste of the old norm – gathering with no social distancing or face coverings…
  • COVID variants: could dangerous new ones evolve in pets and farm animals?
    V. Belov/Shutterstock People have been panicking about COVID-19 in animals since the very start of the pandemic. There’s now plenty of evidence that SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – can cross from humans into other animals. This is known as spillback. The virus is capable of infecting a range of species, from hamsters…
  • COVID vaccine weekly: delta variant exposes the flaws of stop-start vaccination programmes
    For many countries, vaccine programmes have been one of the great triumphs of the pandemic. But in South Africa, it’s a very different story. To date, fewer than 5% of South Africans have been vaccinated, and the country is now in the grips of another COVID-19 surge as the delta variant takes hold. This puts…
  • COVID vaccine weekly: delta variant exposes the flaws of stop-start vaccination programmes
    For many countries, vaccine programmes have been one of the great triumphs of the pandemic. But in South Africa, it’s a very different story. To date, fewer than 5% of South Africans have been vaccinated, and the country is now in the grips of another COVID-19 surge as the delta variant takes hold. This puts…
  • COVID vaccines: combining AstraZeneca and Pfizer may boost immunity – new study
    Late last year, I asked: is it safe to have more than one type of COVID-19 vaccine? A trial has now addressed that question, as well as what effect combining different vaccine types has on immunity. Most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, and the usual strategy is to give people the same vaccine type for…
  • How women’s experience of birth during COVID-19 can help improve childbirth in future
    Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock Over the past 15 months we have avoided hugs and handshakes, stayed at home and quarantined, and experienced important life events alone. We have been reduced to family bubbles – keeping away from friends, acquaintances and even other family members. Who could forget the poignant images of the Queen sitting alone and masked…
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