Do COVID-19 vaccines work?

Israel is currently leading the way with COVID-19 vaccination; 62.5% of people have had at least one dose of vaccine. The UK isn’t far behind, with 1 in 2 people having had a COVID-19 jab. Given the UK is only vaccinating adults, it’s actually vaccinated 2 in 3 people. That’s a substantial proportion of the population, with all vulnerable adults having been offered a jab. 💉

Thanks to a lockdown and vaccinations, positive coronavirus tests and related deaths have been falling since January in Israel. The UK has a population of 68 million people, much larger than Israel’s 9 million, so how are things working out here?

Has the UK beaten coronavirus?

The UK went into a lockdown at the start of January. Schools re-opened in March, with restrictions gradually easing since then. Around the same time, testing capacity was dramatically increased, improving detection of asymptomatic cases. On one day in March nearly 2 million coronavirus tests were conducted! Despite this, the number of positive tests still continues to fall, as does the number of people in hospital with coronavirus and COVID-19 related deaths.

So how does this relate the the vaccine roll-out, what were the key milestones?

The UK split its 53 million adult population into three categories:

  1. Priority cohorts 1 to 4 – 15 million people
    • This group included over 70s, the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (those shielding), as well care home residents, and those who work in care homes, health care and social care
  2. Priority cohorts 5 to 9 – 17 million people
    • This group included over 50s, as well as anyone deemed to be at risk due to their job or social circumstances
  3. General population – 21 million people
    • Everyone else

Cohorts 1 to 4 account for around 88% of all COVID-19 deaths, while groups 1 to 9 account for 99% of all deaths. So once 32 million people have been offered a jab, there will be a significant reduction, near elimination, in the likelihood of deaths from COVID-19.

That’s huge!

So where are we at? Currently, around 35 million people have had a first jab, 16 million of which have also had a second. That’s a mix of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines.

That means all the most vulnerable groups (accounting for 88% of deaths) are fully vaccinated – bar those who’ve refused a vaccine.

Here are some charts showing the UK’s progress. The delivery forecast is based on the 90-day average of vaccinations administered.

The data is all going in the right direction, and I feel quite confident in saying: yes, COVID-19 vaccines do work and the UK is beating coronavirus. Vaccinations are effective at reducing hospitalisation, death, but also at reducing virus transmission.

Points to consider

The more people who catch COVID-19 (globally) the greater the risk of new variants or strains, these could potentially be more harmful, transmissible and vaccine-resistant, but they could also be more benign. Until we’ve stamped out COVID-19 globally, there will be a risk that even a highly vaccinated country could go backwards.

There are also ethical questions around vaccine supply. The UK provided funding and support to multiple vaccine programmes very early on, helping it to secure supplies of several vaccines. Now it’s vaccinated it’s most vulnerable, is there a case for it to gift or sell on doses to other countries with fewer supplies and higher need? Countries like India, which is struggling with the pandemic at the moment. A vaccine given to a not-at-risk adult may stop 1 death in 100,000 in the UK, whereas if given to someone at risk in India right now, it could save 1 in 1,000. It could also free up health care capacity, to support others who haven’t been vaccinated yet.

Wherever you are in the world, there is cause for optimism.

Vaccines work and we are turning the tide on COVID-19! 😊

Testing a petrol car in the electric future

It’s likely that by 2050, there will be virtually no ICE cars on the road in most of the world.

Let’s test drive a petrol car as someone who’s grown up only knowing electric cars. Here’s their first-hand account.

“I can buy everything online these days, so was rather confused why I needed to visit a showroom. I’m always up for trying something new though, so that didn’t put me off.

We were greeted by a very pushy salesperson who wanted to know everything about me – it felt quite invasive actually!

So we got in the car, did up our seat belts and I pushed the accelerator pedal.

Nothing happened.

I tried again, but still nothing.

The salesperson then handed me a key and said I’d need to use it to turn the ignition on.

Combustion engine fire

I jokingly replied: “What are we going to ignite?” 🔥

To my surprise they didn’t find it at all funny and proceeded to explain how there was an internal combustion engine under the bonnet in front of us (meaning no front storage space) which was connected to a tank, full of many litres of fossil fuel – from under the sea no less!

Apparently the engine sucks in the fossil fuels, and then uses controlled explosions to fire pistons which generate movement that is transmitted via a driveshaft connected to an axel that turns the wheels.

It all sounded extremely complicated with hundreds of moving parts, making me worried about how many things could go wrong.

When I asked, they explained that there was a servicing plan to deal with all that. “They ensure the spark plugs are replaced, fuel lines inspected, oil topped up etc. etc.” All for the tidy sum of £20 a month apparently – that’s what I pay for a month’s electricity for my current car! 💷💰

So I turned the ignition on and the whole car shook and juddered! It was as though we were going to take off, but the salesperson assured me we couldn’t, and that the car wasn’t capable of flying into space! 🚀

(as a side-note, apparently it can’t even drive in space, as it needs oxygen in order for the controlled explosions to take place – plus the Mars colony hasn’t found any fossil fuels yet, so there’d be no way to power the car 🙁)

To get it to move I had to use this extra pedal he called the clutch.

Clutch pedal

It wasn’t easy and apparently most people take several hours before they can operate it smoothly.

The car started to smell – which was apparently the clutch burning, really nasty stuff! That’s not covered by the servicing plan either!

Anyway, I eventually got the hang of it, and we got going. Thank goodness I don’t need to do that again!

The more I pushed the accelerator, the louder the car got. I didn’t mind the noise as we accelerated, but it definitely wasn’t to my partner’s taste.

It took a looong time to get to 20mph, and when we did the engine sounded like it was going to explode!

The salesperson told me that I’d need to change gear in order to go any faster – like on a pedal-bicycle! That meant more of the clutch, which wasn’t fun! At one point the salesperson told me we had kangeroo juice, whatever that means!

So we got to 60mph and the car was still making a very loud humming sound, it made it difficult to hear each other and listen to music. By this point, my patience had worn thin with the noises too. I didn’t mind it while accelerating – that could even be quite exciting – but ALL THE TIME? No thanks! So I asked the salesperson to turn it off. 🔊

Apparently that’s a necessary by-product of the internal combustion engine that can’t be switched off!

We were approaching some traffic lights, so I thought I’d ask about the 1-pedal driving.

The salesperson looked confused and then explained that when in gear the car would have engine braking. This sounded very exciting! 🚦

I thought I’d play it safe the first time and ease off when I normally would with regen braking.

I soon discovered that engine braking is really rather rubbish! Apparently it doesn’t put any of the energy back into the fuel tank either! Mad right?

I had to slam on the emergency foot break in order to stop us colliding with the car in front! 🛑

It’s safe to say I don’t rate so-called engine “braking”.

While waiting at the lights, the car continued to make an awful racket and gently vibrated as though we were driving down a gravel path!

I asked, and apparently there was a button I could press to turn on “start-stop technology”. I tried this and at the next lights the engine finally fell silent. Peace in our time! Apparently, it’s only economical if you’re going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds – otherwise the engine uses more fuel to start than it does to idle. Plus it causes wear to the starter motor constantly turning the engine on and off – which you guessed it, isn’t covered by the service plan either.

As we talked, I leant that one of the key benefits of a petrol car was that it can be fuelled to full in 5 minutes! ⛽

The downside is the fuel has to be mined from under the sea and you can only collect it from specialist stations. This means you can never fill-up at home, at work or at the shops, and you need to go out of your way to re-fuel. If you run out of fuel you can’t use a standard wall-plug at home or at a friend’s house, you have to transport fuel to the car. Madness! 🔌

Refuelling was an interesting experience. First when I got out of the car it didn’t automatically stop and I noticed smelly fumes coming out of the back of the car. I hate to think what they were doing to my lungs – and the planet when they disperse.

Fossil fuel extraction

Interestingly the pump nozzle felt similar to plugging in my electric car, although there was this dreadful smell as the liquid poured out and into the car. Apparently it’s highly flammable and caution must be taken to avoid an (uncontrolled) explosion! The salesperson wasn’t keen to talk about the implications of this in an accident. Kaboom! 😬💥

The cost of filling up was eye-watering. We did some maths and 1,000 miles in our electric car costs around £12.50 if filled at home from our low-cost renewable energy tariff, or £60 if filling up at a rapid charger on the road. The same 1,000 miles would cost me £125 in this car – and there is no free filling up at work, supermarkets, tourist attractions… anywhere! 🛢

Apparently, this is partly due to the scarcity of the resource and the cost of extracting, refining and transporting it, but also partly because the engine is far less efficient than an electric motor. We converted our kWh per mile into miles per gallon and it worked out around 120 in winter and 160 in summer. This petrol car could only manage 50 miles per gallon in optimal conditions!

Overall, the ride quality was not great, I really missed the smoothness of our electric car and the smells and sounds were all quite unpleasant. The lack of space in the cabin was a shame – my partner in the back had to contend with a mound in the floor that was where the exhaust pipe ran down the car to funnel the fumes out of the back. There also wasn’t any space under the front bonnet for bags, and rear boot space was limited too – the engine, piping, coolant, filters, fuel tank, oil reservoir, spark plugs, alternator and other things took up all the room. Our electric car has a single motor the size of a water melon and a structural battery pack running the length of the floor.

While the car was cheaper to buy, it doesn’t offer nearly the same enjoyable driving experience, plus our maths showed it was around £2,000 more expensive each year to run!

The environmental impact also didn’t bear thinking about. 🌍

I tried to like it, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m sticking with electric thanks.”

We often fear change more than our ineffective habits.

How many opportunities have you missed by being scared of change?

“The human condition fears change more than familiar behaviours which are disadvantageous”

James Moore

This article was inspired by: Test drive of a petrol car

The UK is going greener

Electricity usage has been falling in the UK since 2002. Meanwhile, the grid has been getting cleaner by the year.

Wind, solar and hydro made up 27.5% of the UKs energy mix in 2020.

Go back 10 years to 2010 and that figure was only 6%.

You can take a deeper dive into the data by exploring the UK Electric Insights – provided by Drax.

The Dumbest Experiment in Human History

We’re using less energy and burning fewer fossil fuels, which is definitely a good thing! Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of clean, renewable energy generated is a step in the right direction and a step away from what Elon Musk coinedthe dumbest experiment in human history“.

Even today, we still burn a lot of fossil fuels and other carbon emitters. Given climate change is now more pressing than ever, the drive for efficiency has never been more important.

So the scene is set: every kWh of consumption we can avoid is positive for the planet.

Energy Labels

From March 2021, you’ll start to see changes to appliance energy efficiency rating labels in the UK – and also across Europe. The old label will be phased out, being replaced with a new simpler one, aiming to promote higher standards of efficiency.

Each appliance type has its own label with additional info. For example, the TV label includes screen size, and the energy consumption of HDR mode. The label for fridges has a decibel rating (so you can compare noise levels) as well as the storage capacity.

The most noticeable difference is in the efficiency ratings. These have been simplified to an A to G scale. Before the range was A+++ to G-, which added complexity – especially as not all the labels were displayed on the chart!

Old UK Energy Label
The old UK energy label
New UK Energy Label
The new UK energy label

The new A to G label also has significantly stricter criteria – as it should if we’re to achieve our climate targets!

With every year, technology develops and efficiency improves – appliances need less power to do the same thing. As such we need to hold appliances to a higher standard. It’s worth remembering, this isn’t only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket. Buying a more efficient device which uses less energy will also save you money on energy bills!

If you bought a fridge in 2019 with an A+++ rating, that’d now be rated a B or C in the 2021 label.

If everyone stopped buying G rated products, manufacturers would stop making them. If more people buy A rated product, manufactures will put more research and development into making their products even more efficient – maybe forcing another label change! 😂

Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle, Replace

You can help by knowing and using your “Rs”!

  • Reduce usage where you can – turn off the TV instead of leaving it in standby mode
  • Reuse your existing fridge, TV or washing machine – if you don’t need a new one, don’t buy one!
  • Repair what you’ve got before looking for something new
  • Recycle or Repurpose the appliance you have so it can have a second life – upcycle where you can
  • Replace it with an energy efficient one – and only if you can’t do the other “Rs”

So next time you need a new appliance, check the “Rs” to see if you really do need a new one, and if you do, look out for the new energy efficiency label and use it to help you pick the most efficient one 🙂