Vaccination warning for the over-40s

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ISLANDERS aged over 40 are between five and ten times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of Covid-19 if they are not fully vaccinated, the deputy medical officer of health has warned.

Dr Ivan Muscat analysed the records of those with Covid across a five-month period before estimating the relative probability of a fully vaccinated person needing to be admitted to hospital.

‘It was a very rough calculation, but from the end of June to the end of November, those [aged 40 or above] who were fully vaccinated were five to ten times less likely to be hospitalised,’ he said.

While the government has refused to share details about the vaccination status of people in hospital at any one point, claiming this could compromise patient confidentiality, Dr Muscat’s calculation provides a broader picture. He said that he had focused on those aged 40-plus as they were generally at higher risk of hospitalisation.

Vaccination remained the most potent weapon in combatting the virus, Dr Muscat said. He compared the rate of hospitalisation (4%) and death (1%) for positive cases of the Alpha variant, which was dominant in late 2020 and early 2021, before most people had been vaccinated, with the equivalent figures for the later Delta variant of 1% (hospitalisation) and 0.1% (mortality).

‘Even though Delta was more transmissible you could see there was a big impact from vaccination,’ he said.

Looking ahead to 2022, Dr Muscat added: ‘We are likely to see more activity and variants, which we will deal with through boosters, possibly variant-specific boosters or vaccines that have been tweaked – people are working on that.

‘A fourth dose is entirely possible. There are studies about the need and timing for this based on how much immunity wanes after the third dose, in the same way as this was studied previously [prior to the decision to launch the booster programme].’

New anti-viral medication that will help treat those who have been badly affected by Covid has yet to be supplied to Jersey, but Dr Muscat said he was hopeful it would become available for use in the Island in January.

Meanwhile, the JEP understands that the mandatory isolation period for those with Covid-19 could be reduced from ten to seven days, with ministers meeting today to discuss what measures may be needed to tackle a predicted wave of Omicron cases.

Following a meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell yesterday, ministers are set to consider whether Jersey will follow England’s lead in cutting the quarantine period for those who have tested positive. Ministers are also due to discuss arrangements for schools.

Today’s discussions will take place as the number of known Covid cases in Jersey was confirmed yesterday to have risen by 608 since Christmas Eve to a total of 2,120. Of those, 18 are in hospital.

Following the rise in positive cases, the capacity for PCR testing will be increased beyond the current limit of 1,000 tests a day.

Director of testing and tracing Rachel Williams appealed for Islanders’ help in maximising testing capacity by cancelling test appointments that were no longer needed.

She said: ‘We are seeing a lot of missed appointments – around 400 across the four-day holiday weekend. If someone receives a test appointment they no longer need as a result of already having had a test, the appointment can be easily cancelled online or by phone and can then be offered to someone else who needs it.’

Ms Williams also called for those who expected to be identified as direct contacts to be patient and wait to be contacted by a member of the track-and-trace team, rather than calling the coronavirus helpline, unless they were experiencing symptoms.

‘It’s fantastic that Islanders are continuing to use lateral-flow tests before going out and then booking PCR tests where necessary, but this has led to extremely high demand,’ she added.

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