UK Vaccination Progress Update

The UK has set out its steps to reduce coronavirus restrictions. It’s hoped the fantastic progress of the vaccination programme will mean this is the last COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

We’ve been told that decisions will be informed by the data, so let’s dig into the stats!

Cases – and the rate of infection

Cases have been dropping for the last seven weeks, from a high of 414k confirmed cases in Week 44 – 4th of Jan to 10th of Jan. The ONS estimated 1 in 50 people had the virus in England in the last week of 2020. That’s now dropped to 1 in 145 people.

The rate of infection (the “R” rate) has been below 1 for seven weeks now – by my estimates, which are based on the reported positive test results.

An “R” of 0.9 means every 100 people with the virus, infect a further 90. An “R” of 1.1 means those 100 people instead infect 110 people.

Cases are going in the right direction, although I’d argue it’s not cases that matter anymore.

UK COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalisations, Deaths and Vaccinations

Hospital Patients

The reason we’ve all been asked to “Stay at home” is to “Protect the NHS” and “Save lives”. The more people who get ill with coronavirus, the more pressure that puts on the National Health Service.

It’s okay to have COVID-19 cases if nobody goes to hospital. Thanks to the vaccine roll-out, fewer people are, and here’s a great visual tweet explaining why.

Vaccination almost completely eliminates the chance of getting severe or moderate symptoms!

There are still significant numbers of people in hospital, but it’s now less than half the peak and dropping further.


The vaccine will reduce hospital admissions, but it’ll also reduce deaths – even more significantly so.

Even a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is proving to have a significant impact on immunity to COVID-19. This is great news and will be contributing to the rapid fall in deaths in the UK.

In just five weeks, the UK has gone from ~8.7k coronavirus deaths a week to ~2.3k. To put that in perspective, around 3.2k people sadly die from cancer each week.


Here’s why the UK has been able to set-out it’s roadmap out of lockdown: the vaccine roll-out.

The UK is vaccinating the entire adult population (53 million people) meaning it needs to administer 106 million vaccinations.

So far over 1 in 3 people have had their first dose, and the programme is already over 20% complete.

UK COVID-19 Vaccine Progress

If the UK continues to roll-out vaccinations at the current rate, it’s set to meet, if not exceed its targets to re-open the country.

All the data I’ve shared in this post comes from the UK Gov Coronovirus Dashboard. Predictions are based on my interpretation of this data and vaccine supply data.

A Breathalyzer that can Detect COVID-19

In the Netherlands, the Dutch health authorities are using a breathalyzer machine called the SprioNose to help detect COVID-19 cases. The machine works rather like an alcohol test in that it detects traces of the virus in the breath blown into the machine.

The health department state that in 70% of cases tested, the rapid test can determine with certainty that they are not infected with the coronavirus. For the remaining 30%, the results are not conclusive. If the breath test does not provide a definite negative result, the person will be given another test to find out if they are infected with coronavirus with the common PCR test.

The results only take a couple of minutes, and the screening capability means that many people can avoid the invasive nose swab and the related procedures for analysis, saving a few red noses and a lot of medical testing resources.

The SpiroNose technology was developed by the company Breathomix. The Leiden University Medical Centre and GGD Amsterdam (the health department) have thoroughly tested the SpiroNose at coronavirus test locations. At the moment, some 600 breath tests can take place every day in Amsterdam, but this will quickly increase to more than 2,500 breath tests per day. Moving forward, the rapid breath test will also be used in the rest of the Netherlands.

Bring it on I say!

COVID-19 Vaccinations. A Call for Cooperation

Pharmaceutical Production Plants

Arguing In Europe

This week here in Europe we have seen an argument develop within and beyond the EU about COVID-19 vaccines. The EU has accused AstraZeneca of not fulfilling its contractual obligations to the block, as it has not (or cannot) provide the block with the amount of vaccines it promised.

The British press have started to suggest the EU are going to stop the vaccines getting to the UK, with part of the problem being that according to the International Federation of Vaccine Manufacturers, about 76% of major vaccination manufacturing capability lies in Europe, most within the EU.

Now the EU is threatening to block exports from factories in the block until they have their vaccines that they say they have been promised.

This will not only affect the British, who I think are the target for this proposal, but I can only presume many parts of the world. And vaccine availability was anyway (to say the least) unevenly distributed.

To what degree can this be seen as a technological problem? Or an open science problem? From the technological perspective I think the answer is plain to see. The path chosen to get out of the COVID pandemic is what we in my world call a technological fix, in this case a vaccine that has been developed using cutting edge technology in a very short time. As a previous post explained, these vaccines use synthetic biology techniques, read more here.

A Ray of Hope

Each company can only produce so much of the final product. But in another breakthrough, this week a competitor has decided to start producing AstraZeneca’s vaccines for them in one of their facilities. A breakthrough! Cooperation!

If Sanofi (the French manufacturer that is going to join in) then why can’t others? And not only in Europe obviously. Across the globe.

The European concentration of production and wealth leads to massive discrepancy in availability across the world. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, data shows that rich nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising COVID-19 vaccines so far.

The alliance says that nearly 70 countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced.

So it appears to me that this kind of technological fix benefits some people more than others. But I ask myself if this has to be the case. Couldn’t other facilities be pressed into action across the globe to use spare capacity to produce more vaccines? Couldn’t this be done in the name of humanity rather than profit?

Cooperation in a time of crisis?