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Pandemic may "drag on" - expert warns

Monday April 19th 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic could "drag on", an expert has warned as the world passed three million reported deaths.

In spite of the success of the vaccine programme, the UK still ranks as having the fifth highest number of recorded deaths globally, according to international data.

According to the data, it has been surpassed only by the USA, Brazil, India and Mexico. India yesterday recorded 275,000 new cases of infection.

The total came after Europe passed a million deaths last week with the pandemic still running barely checked in many countries.

The UK meanwhile has been forced to extend its tracking of the South African variant after new cases were found in the West Midlands.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, said: "The true figure is undoubtedly much higher. Worryingly, this pandemic is still growing at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands are dying every day. Every death is a tragedy.

"The only way out of this pandemic is through science and fast, fair global access to its advances - vaccines, treatments and test and the health systems to deliver them. Yet still wealthy countries continue to hoard our best tools for defeating the virus."

He added: "We're in grave danger of moving to a world of haves and have nots. If countries who can afford to share choose not to, this pandemic will drag on with more death, suffering and economic hardship. New variants may emerge that overcome our current vaccines and treatments, reversing our hard-won progress."

•The UK is to restrict pregnant women to mRNA based vaccines, it has been announced.

Regulators said there was no evidence of risk from other vaccines - but that the USA has now generated significant safety data on the Pfizer and Modern mRNA vaccines.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, welcomed the move.

He said: "Vaccination offers pregnant women the best protection from COVID-19, which can be serious in some women. We know pregnant women can get unwell with COVID-19; one in five pregnant women who become unwell and are admitted to hospital will have a premature birth.

"We believe it should be a woman's choice whether to have the vaccine or not after considering the benefits and risks and would encourage pregnant women to discuss with a trusted source like their GP, obstetrician or midwife, or a healthcare professional in a vaccination centre.

"This move will empower all the pregnant women in the UK to make the decision that is right for them, at the same time that the non-pregnant population in their age group receive protection from COVID-19."

• Oxford University is planning a human challenge trial to test the extent of human immunity against the virus, it was announced today.

The trial will involve people who have previously had COVID-19 and will seek to establish the dose of virus that does not cause symptoms - but might take hold and make the person infectious.

Researcher Professor Helen McShane said: "When we re-infect these participants, we will know exactly how their immune system has reacted to the first COVID infection, exactly when the second infection occurs, and exactly how much virus they got. As well as enhancing our basic understanding, this may help us to design tests that can accurately predict whether people are protected.

"In phase two, we will explore two different things. First, we will define very carefully the baseline immune response in the volunteers before we infect them. We will then infect them with the dose of virus chosen from the first study and measure how much virus we can detect after infection. We will then be able to understand what kind of immune responses protect against re-infection. Second, we will measure the immune response at several time points after infection so we can understand what immune response is generated by the virus."

Tags: Europe | Flu & Viruses | UK News | World Health

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