NHS Chair Says Young May Be Infecting Old in U.K. Covid Surge
(Bloomberg) -- Amid concern that a new twist on the delta variant could be driving the current U.K. coronavirus surge, National Health Service chair David Prior said it’s more likely that school-aged children are infecting older people whose vaccine-induced immunity is on the wane.
“It’s too early to say, but that’s what we think is the most likely explanation,” Prior said Tuesday evening in an interview at a Boston health conference.
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted on Sunday that “urgent research” was needed to determine if the new delta variant AY.4 -- which represents 8% of recently sequenced cases in the U.K. -- was more transmissible and better at evading immune defenses.
Asked about the tweet at the Boston HLTH conference, Gottlieb said, “It’s all theoretical right now.” His concern, he said, was that “this far into the pandemic, we really don’t have a good systematic process for gathering these mutations and studying them very efficiently, to try to ascertain whether or not they have an advantage.”
Results from the genetic sequencing of virus cases tend to run two or three weeks behind what’s happening in the population, Gottlieb said, so it’s possible the current surge reflects a rise in AY.4. “We just don’t know. And we should have answers to these questions,” he said.
Pressure on the NHS has been mounting in recent weeks as cases rise and hospitals fill. Flu season is around the corner and many staffers are already exhausted.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with flu yet,” Prior said. “If we have a bad flu season, and if Covid carries on at similar levels as at the moment, it’s going to be tough. No question about that.”
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