In the UK we have 15 million flu vaccinations a year, so about 290,000 a week. The plan is to administer 500,000 Covid-19 vaccinations a week on top of this, nearly doubling the number we do for flu, so existing jabs are planned to change by a factor of 3. We may have problems with administering the vaccines to enough people quickly, but offset by administering the vaccines out of specification. The number of doses would be 6.5 million every 3 months, so if the production of 40 million over the same period is achieved then we should be able to do it. But we may find the situation and mutations slowing this down to half this for re-administering updated versions every year, trebling the time required.
We have a population of 68 million people with about 35 million being more at risk. We also have this theoretical concept of ‘herd immunity’ that has never been tested in reality, certainly not with Covid-19, and definitely not with the new strain that has appeared, only really having vague ideas about what it means and the proportions required, the general guess being around about 70% of the population, but depending on what expert is asked ranges from 5% to 90%.
If two doses of a particular vaccine are given then at a rate of 500,000 injections a week, so effectively 250,000 full immunisations, the population will have been given a recommended dose by March 2026, people at risk by September 2023. Giving only one dose changes this, to the population been given a dose by August 2023, people at risk by May 2022.
For the 70% level that is thought of for herd immunity this may be obtained by about July 2024 for the two-dose vaccination but with 70% effectiveness for a single dose about August 2023, the same time as for the double dose, the lower than full population needed proportion being offset by the less effectiveness of one dose.
Time is important locally, slowing the expansion quicker with a single dose, but in the long term this may not be true with the disease running free in the rest of the world. We have probably only had the disease in the general world population since about November 2019, so about 14 months and it has produced 2 major replacement mutations during this time in about an estimated 3% of the world population, so about 1 every 7 months.
Unexpected mutations as said before could extend this to 2027.
There have been studies that suggested that it might have been endemic to the world before, but we would have noticed it if it was of the same form. A form that didn’t spread in the same way is effectively another virus, similar to finding it in another species but unable to make the jump to humans. You could classify it as the same if you like, but it wouldn’t be, being closer to thinking of bats and birds being the same as superficially they look like it.
There’s a lot of people who have decided things, then work out ways of proving it rather than finding ways of objectively testing if a thing is true. Big science is populated with them.
We currently don’t know how effective a particular type of vaccine among the 26 main candidates will be on the main 3 mutations, but given that at 70% world herd immunity there may be as many as 60 major replacement mutations over a period of 14 years if the problem is not solved worldwide, so we may be fighting a losing battle.
The UK is well placed to fight the constantly changing enemy, but each mutation could take months to adapt the vaccines to and get them out there, putting out fires as and when they occur in the UK, but this is not true for most of the rest of the world.
For the problem to be solved for the UK by Spring this year I think is being overly optimistic, probably requiring more of what happened last year happening this year and possibly next year as well.
But the world is still not getting to grip with the problem, many countries just pulling up the drawbridge and hoping it will go away. This ‘I’m alright Jack’ method of dealing with the problem is unlikely to work long term, temporarily sorting the problem in each country while the other houses in the same block burn, hoping the fire will burn out by itself.
We have various worldwide organisations, but they are too busy making documentaries and writing books about how bad and unfair the world is, so are now supernumerary. Most of them don’t do the job they were originally set up for, now being just power bases for personal empires and vendettas, ignoring major wrongs in their own and some countries while at the same time condemning minor ones in others.
In the UK at 05/01/2021 we have administered about an estimated 1.1 million first doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, so are managing about 40,000 a day. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is now rolling out but I’m still very doubtful about the planned amounts per week. This is not on administration or distribution of the vaccines, we could ramp up and change the ay we do it to manage that figure, it is one of ramping up manufacture. There are a lot of armchair economists involved who think doubling or trebling production is just an easy proposition, but the facts usually are even 10% is quite hard on a production/supply line. Over 20% quite often can cause the whole process to fail with doubling or quadrupling supply times in many of the steps and incurring large storage problems for others. The only way you can do it quite often is by diverting resources from other areas, itself producing a knock on effect of failure in those areas. Production takes the time and resources it needs and we may have the problem with Covid of over-prioritising some risks for even greater risks. There is some talk of administering 2 million doses a week, or 300,000 a day, but I think it likely that the figure will be more like 100,000 a day on average.