Covid-19 vaccine supplies have arrived in the county ready for the vaccination campaign to begin in the next couple of days. It may be a while before many of us receive our jab. Not every we have spoken to will take up the offer of a jab. Some are concerned about adverse health impacts. We talked to Dr Caron Morton GP about the issues for our latest webcast.
Andy began the interview by asking whether the development of the vaccine was rushed. Tracey ended by asking whether Caron herself would have a Covid-19 vaccination.
Transcript Covid Cast 3
I’d like to take you back to Wednesday, when in America Dr Anthony Fauchi suggested that the British procedures were too rushed. And he hinted they were not thorough. Since then he has fully corrected and withdrawn that statement.
But he echoed what many people are saying. That people are concerned that it has been done in 10 months, and not 10 years. Do you have any comfort for them?
Dr Caron Morton
There are a couple of things within that statement, Andy. I think firstly we need to understand the position we’re in with this pandemic. With the severity of this illness. And the fact that the first time ever, across the globe a lot of the red tape, around manufacturing, around medicines being registered has been lifted. A lot of delays are often around some of the paperwork based exercises.
So, we need to take that that out of it. And I suppose the reality is we have don’t have 10 years. Unfortunately.
What we have learnt about this virus is that the immunity you gain from it doesn’t last forever if you get it. So, people are getting it time and again.
We are not getting control of it without a vaccine and aside from the direct impact we see from coronavirus, the secondary impact on mental health…
…on our economies, on poverty and on general health care and being able to deal with other health care related issues is immense and we cannot continue. So there has to be a solution.
As regards the two pharmaceutical companies that have come up with the vaccines. An extreme amount of work has gone into that. Rightly so.
I have done a lot of reading. Of discussing with people around what the vaccines are. What the results are.
I think they have been as vigilant as they possibly could be. I also don’t believe that these companies would be releasing this vaccine if they had any significant, fundamental concerns. Ultimately, this will be going to everybody including their families.
I think it is useful to go back to what coronavirus is and why this is such an issue.
The coronavirus genus has been around for a very long time. You’ll remember that the first time that there was a lot of global concern was with the avian flu, the SARS, and it’s one of those families of viruses.
It’s an RNA virus. The reasons making this different isn’t necessarily that it is much more deadly but that it spreads much more easily.
So, on average RNA viruses are between two and four on their replication rates and coronavirus has a rate of 5.7.
So, the infectious nature is much greater and it spreads much quicker because it replicates quicker. And that’s why it is so difficult to manage.
And we then know what happens with the coronavirus is that it does attack the respiratory system, the breathing system and it causes an inflammation in the small airways and a significant drop in oxygenation and the oxygen saturation for the patient.
So, what we find is that elderly patients, patients who have underlying heart or lung disease are particularly susceptible.
We also know that if you have additional illnesses like pneumonia, a chest infection or flu, you become very susceptible to this virus and when it intensifies you have very poor outcomes.
We have seen that repeated coronavirus infections are quite dangerous. So constantly being exposed to coronavirus in itself holds its own risks.
And that’s why it is really important for us to get a vaccine. The fact that the vast proportion of the population has been okay, and has either contracted coronavirus asymptomatically or has recovered from coronavirus, we cannot vouch for the fact that will remain the status quo.
Having looked after patients in the hospital and patients who have sadly died from coronavirus, it is an extreme disease. It is a disease that we haven’t seen before. It is a very difficult disease to manage and it is a very difficult disease for patients to have.
I think there is a need. Globally there has been a call for a vaccine and a solution because of the effects and secondary effects but also the direct effects of this virus.
If we talk about the secondary effects, the mental health impact has been enormous. The deterioration in people’s mental health from young children all the way through, we see time and again in the surgery. Lots of people who are now unable to cope because of the level of isolation.
We have seen a significant deterioration in our dementia patients. At home in particular. They have been isolated. There has been a marked deterioration and a rapid progression of their dementia.
Financial implications most people know about. They read about it. They are living with it themselves. But it does have a very stark effect on young children and on young families who are seriously struggling.
In the health service, despite our best efforts, yes, we are behind. We are behind with routine procedures. We are behind with some cancer management. We are behind with long term conditions management.
Not necessarily in GP surgeries. I think we have been lucky in Station Drive and in Ludlow generally. We have caried on with our care. The hospitals are behind because they just don’t have the capacity. So, the harm done by coronavirus is much wider than the illness itself.
I wonder if you could explain a little bit more about viral overload. We have been hearing about this in the news recently. Could you explain what this is and how it could possibly affect our frontline workers or how it is affecting our frontline workers?
Dr Caron Morton
What we saw with clinicians who have become unwell is that they are often fit and reasonably well people. They don’t have chronic underlying illness and yet a lot of them have done very, very badly when they have contracted coronavirus.
Percentage wise, very few clinicians have contracted coronavirus despite obviously being repeatedly exposed to it.
What the scientists are now proposing and what we think is happening is that repeated exposures to the virus, when the body is repeatedly getting small bouts of the infection…
…although people are not getting ill every time, eventually with some downgrading of the immune system, when they actually eventually get the coronavirus and become ill, they are extremely ill.
Young patients or relatively fit and well patients who have respiratory illness often find themselves in ICU and often deteriorate into respiratory collapse very quickly and that is what we are seeing.
And that’s part of why as clinical personnel, we do feel that we need to protect ourselves. Firstly, so that we cannot be at risk of asymptomatic passing it on to our patients.
Also, because we know that viral overload can have a negative impact.
I have one question. Are you going to have a vaccine?
Dr Carol Morton
Yes. I will have it.