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Covid measures ‘plan C’ has been discussed, senior official tells MPs

plan C

Covid measures ‘plan C’ has been discussed, senior official tells MPs

A “plan C” for tougher coronavirus restrictions has been discussed in official circles, a senior civil servant has confirmed, despite ministers denying that tougher measures are an option this Christmas should the rate of new cases continue to rise.

The indication of planning for potentially harsher restrictions comes as senior scientists and Labour push for the rollout of “plan B”, an existing package of “light-touch” measures including advice to work from home and compulsory face masks in some settings.

Last week the health minster Edward Argar denied that anything of the order of a plan C – which could include restrictions on household mixing at Christmas – was being contemplated by the government.

However, the term was used on Tuesday by Prof Lucy Chappell, the chief scientific adviser for the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), when MPs asked whether a failure to bring in plan B actions now may mean tighter restrictions are needed later.

“I think it suggests that plan A and plan B and whatever the plan C looks like are mutually exclusive, but they are not,” she told the science and technology select committee on Covid transmission.

Chappell was then questioned on whether a plan C did, in fact, exist.

“It has been proposed … The name has been mentioned. It has not been extensively worked up,” she said, adding that at the DHSC, “at the moment, the focus is on plan B”.

Dr Thomas Waite, the interim deputy chief medical officer at the DHSC, said it was up to the government, not scientific advisers, to decide whether plan B should be introduced. He suggested there was no single measure or threshold that would inform the move, rather a consideration of various factors, including age-stratified case rates, the rate of change in hospital admissions, the impact of waning immunity, and the influence of booster jabs.

The evidence session also included testimony from Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who suggested that although transmission in the UK was high, focusing on daily figures of Covid hospitalisations and deaths was misleading, noting they included people who needed medical help or had died for another reason.

Pollard also suggested that regular testing in schools was problematic.

“Clearly, the large amount of testing in schools is very disruptive to the system, whether that is the individual child who is then isolating, because they’ve tested positive, but they’re completely well, or it’s because of the concerns that that raises more widely in the school,” he said.

“I think probably we need to move in the pandemic, over this winter, maybe towards the end of the winter, to a completely different system of clinically driven testing,” he said. “In other words, testing people who are unwell rather than having a regular testing of those people who are well.”

Pollard said that while vaccinating people who have yet to have a Covid jab would make a big difference for intensive care, and booster doses may reduce hospital admissions, vaccinations alone would not be enough to remove pressures on the NHS.

“When you look at where the NHS is today, it is incredibly fragile, whether it’s in primary care and secondary care or in social care, and that fragility is only contributed [to] a small amount by Covid,” he said.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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Health

Amid Racism Concerns, WHO Renames Monkeypox “mpox”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended ‘mpox’ as a new name for monkeypox.

In a statement on Monday, the organisation said its move was prompted by concerns of “racist and stigmatising language online”.

“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term “mpox” as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out,” the statement reads.

“WHO, in accordance with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) update process, held consultations to gather views from a range of experts, as well as countries and the general public, who were invited to submit suggestions for new names.

“Mpox will become a preferred term, replacing monkeypox, after a transition period of one year. This serves to mitigate the concerns raised by experts about confusion caused by a name change in the midst of a global outbreak. It also gives time to complete the ICD update process and to update WHO publications.

“The synonym mpox will be included in the ICD-10 online in the coming days. It will be a part of the official 2023 release of ICD-11, which is the current global standard for health data, clinical documentation and statistical aggregation.

“Various advisory bodies were heard during the consultation process, including experts from the medical and scientific and classification and statistics advisory committees which constituted of representatives from government authorities of 45 different countries.

“The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed. The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages. If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the same mechanism. Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies.

“WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name.”

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