Tragically, the UK has one of the highest per capita covid death rates of any country in the world (only Belgium and Slovenia are worse).
While the UK government can be criticized for much of what went wrong, the vaccination program was absolutely right.
Just before I sat down to write this column, I checked Covid’s online vaccine calculator to see how quickly I could expect a sting.
At 63, according to the calculator, I have around 14 million people waiting in line and I can expect to get my first dose in early April.
Despite the euphoria about the vaccines, many people I have spoken to are concerned that the protective effect will weaken over time and, separately, people who have been infected with Covid will get it back.
Tragically, the UK has one of the highest per capita covid death rates of any country in the world (only Belgium and Slovenia are worse). While the UK government can be criticized for much of what went wrong, the vaccination program was absolutely right. (Above, members of the public line up to get their Covid vaccine at the Basingstoke Fire Station in Hampshire on Tuesday.)
There is good news about the likely long-term effectiveness of the Covid vaccines. They pretend your body is being attacked – in this case by the coronavirus. This strengthens the antibodies, which are then ready to attach to the real viruses and stop them from spreading
On the second point, a recent study by Oxford University of more than 6,600 UK healthcare workers happily found that the chance of re-infection in the five months of the study after infection was around 0.003 percent (three in 100,000), and that only a small minority of the newly infected developed symptoms.
There is also good news about the likely long-term effectiveness of the Covid vaccines. They pretend your body is being attacked – in this case by the coronavirus.
This strengthens the antibodies, which are then ready to attach to the real viruses and stop them from spreading.
Protective antibody levels begin to rise within days of being vaccinated or infected with Covid-19, but then tend to drop.
It happened to one of my sons, Dan. In March, he shared an apartment with a couple of doctors who were with Covid. He developed excruciating muscle aches and fatal headaches that lasted a few days but fortunately fully recovered within a week (although it took months for his senses of smell and taste to return).
Last October, seven months after taking Covid, Dan decided to donate blood so his antibodies can be used to treat other patients (this is known as convalescent plasma therapy). However, a test showed that his antibody levels to Covid were too low to be of any help.
I just got to the end of a dry January where I managed to stay away from alcohol most of the time.
This may have less to do with willpower and more to do with genes and my sensitivity to alcohol.
If I drink more than a small amount, I blush and feel quite sick.
Tests show that I have a less efficient version of the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde, the toxin made when drinking alcohol – which is why I disagree.
Much harder for me to give up is sugar, but that’s a story for another day!
Does that mean he could get it again? The answer from a study in the journal Nature is reassuring – just because antibody levels are falling doesn’t mean you’re not protected.
For the study, researchers at Rockefeller University in New York collected two blood samples from 87 people who had Covid-19 – the first was taken one month after infection, the second six months later.
The researchers found that after six months, patients like Dan no longer produced as many antibodies as they had shortly after infection.
But that’s exactly what they expected. Your immune system is very smart; It doesn’t have to keep producing antibodies.
Instead, so-called “memory B-cells” are created, specialized cells that are primed and ready to trigger another round of antibodies when they encounter the virus again.
It’s a bit like having a factory set up and ready to make weapons should you be attacked.
When the researchers searched the patients’ blood for memory B cells, not only had they increased in number, but in many cases had also gotten better at doing their job.
The antibodies that the memory B cells now produced were more effective at adhering and neutralizing Covid-19 particles than the original antibodies.
Professor Michel Nussenzweig, who led the study, was surprised by these results for Covid-19. As he explained, ‘It is common in chronic infections [such as] HIV, or herpes, where the virus lingers in the body.
However, we did not expect it with SARS-CoV-2 [which causes Covid-19], which is believed to leave the body after the infection subsides. ‘
The explanation lies in the gut. Usually the virus enters your throat and lungs first, but can then infect your intestines – and when the US team performed intestinal biopsies, they found traces of Covid genetic material in half of the patients.
In addition to antibodies, your immune system has other ways to fight Covid, including your T cells, which seek out and destroy cells infected with viruses. This is also good news for the long-term effectiveness of vaccines. (Pictured, patients are waiting for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Streatham, southwest London this week.)
This could have been left over from the original infection or simply the remains of dead virus cells. Whatever these particles are, they may have acted like a vaccine, keeping the immune system’s memory cells informed.
And that’s not all, because in addition to antibodies, your immune system has other ways to fight Covid, including your T cells, which seek out and destroy cells infected with viruses. This is also good news for the long-term effectiveness of vaccines.
Studies show that our current vaccines produce a strong T-cell response, and there is reason to hope that this response will last.
A study published last July of patients who contracted SARS (a respiratory tract infection caused by a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2) in 2003 found that most still had memory T cells 17 years later.
I don’t want to be too optimistic. The Covid-19 virus is mutating which is why we are seeing these new, more infectious strains. So we may need an optimized version of the vaccine next winter and every year to ensure optimal protection.
Thanks to the scientists and the adaptability of our immune system, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Go to www.omnicalculator.com/health/vaccine-queue-uk to find out where you are in the Covid-jab queue
Psst, do you want to know the secret of losing weight?
When the Prime Minister was put down by Covid, he blamed the severity of his illness for being too fat – and since then there have been plenty of photos of him running with his personal trainer.
Unconfirmed rumors suggest that he also practiced intermittent fasting.
If you want to lose weight, the combination of diet and exercise is key. Countless studies have shown that while exercise is great for toning your body and improving your mood, it is not, in and of itself, a particularly effective way to lose weight.
This has been strikingly demonstrated in recent research by Kentucky University on healthy but sedentary and overweight volunteers.
When the Prime Minister was put down by Covid, he blamed the severity of his illness for being too fat – and since then there have been plenty of photos of him running with his personal trainer. Unconfirmed rumors suggest that he also practiced intermittent fasting
Half started exercising for at least 90 minutes twice a week or until they burned approximately 750 calories per session (an additional 1,500 calories per week). The others exercised about an hour a day six times a week (to burn an additional 3,000 calories a week).
They all also kept food diaries. After three months, their measurements were checked and compared.
It must have been disappointing because those who exercised three hours a week had lost an average of about 1½ pounds of body fat; The stronger athletes lost just under 4 pounds of fat.
That’s comparable to the 18 pounds of fat you might expect during that time on my Fast 800 program, which cuts you down to 800-1,000 calories a day.
When the researchers looked at the food diaries, they found that the volunteers had, on average, unconsciously increased their caloric intake by about 1,000 calories per week.
The moral of this story is that exercise is wonderful, but you can’t expect to lose weight by taking a 20-minute walk, burning 50 calories, and then mocking cookies when you get home. Two chocolate chip cookies? Around 180 calories.