Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to phone EU leaders this week as a row over COVID-19 vaccine supplies continues. The bloc will hold a virtual meeting on Thursday to discuss a potential ban on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine exports to the UK. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed over the weekend that the EU can “forbid” vaccines made on the continent being sent to the UK.
Animosity is said to have risen as many European countries are experiencing a surge in infections amid the slow vaccine rollout, while Britain broke its daily jab record with more than 870,000 yesterday.
Incredibly, footage from 2018 shows the Government’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Whitty giving a lecture on ‘How to Control a pandemic’ to students at Gresham College in London.
In it, he outlines a three-point pandemic plan that could sidestep any proposed vaccine ban and protect UK citizens.
He said: “For new diseases, even if it is possible to get a vaccine, it will usually take years. It is not realistic to think in the first phase of an epidemic that you can control it with a vaccine.
“For many diseases, we’ve tried really hard for decades to get vaccines, and so far have failed to get ones that are more than partially effective.
“Vaccines have a major role, but the idea that they are going to be the solution to every epidemic is optimistic.
“If you do have a vaccine, there are a variety of ways you can use it.”
The practising National Health Service (NHS) consultant physician at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) explained three ways that vaccines can be used effectively – depending on how many you have.
He continued: “The one that everyone would think of is vaccinating the whole population – and this is going to work if you have a highly effective vaccine with low side effects.
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“This will provide some degree of immunity for the whole population, even those not vaccinated will be protected by herd immunity.
“But there may be cases where you can’t get the vaccine in large amounts – in that case there are two more approaches you can take – you could just vaccinate high-risk groups.
“These are people you think are likely to get the infection and pass it on, like healthcare workers.
“The third approach you can take that is perhaps the least intuitive, but extremely effective is what is called ring vaccination.
“This is where you find a case and vaccinate everyone who has come in contact with that person – this was tried effectively with a smallpox eradication attempt, and we are using it again in the Ebola outbreak.”
The expert went on to discuss the importance of pushing the “R number” down as low as possible, adding it was “central” to controlling a pandemic.
He stated: “If you have a disease that, on average, passes itself from one person to one person – that disease is stable and has an R of one.
“If one person gives it to two people, who give it to four people, who give it to eight – that has an R of two and is expanding exponentially.
“If the R number is below one, say it’s 0.5, that disease is on its way out.
“The key is to work out its R number and get it below one, once that happens the epidemic will die.”
Recent estimates have placed the UK’s R number to between 0.6 and 0.9.
But separate figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland show a higher calculation on the upper limit of one or more.
Earlier in the lecture, Prof Whitty discussed how humanity has overcome diseases with vaccination strategies in the past.
He said: “Yellow fever, measles, polio, smallpox – these are all diseases where the vaccine we have is highly effective – if we have an epidemic of these we should be able to stop it.
“The occasions where we can’t, and there have been some recent yellow fever outbreaks, and they have occurred, in part, due to a global shortage in yellow fever vaccines.
“It’s not on how to make it, it’s simply that we’ve got a manufacturing problem.
“You will have diseases where there is a variant of the known disease, with a known vaccine – and the classic for this is influenza.
“Every year the vaccine has to be reformulated to meet the current form.”