Covid Q & A

An artist's impression of the virus

I expect that many Rye News readers will by now have been contacted about a coronavirus vaccination. If you are over 70 you will probably have had your first one but the rollout is impressively speedy, whether you go to Etchingham or use one of the other vaccination centres that you may be offered on the NHS website. The number of positive tests is falling, as is the number of hospital admissions. Treatment of Covid-19 is at last getting better; I might add that the current recommended use of steroids and tocilizumab was suggested by me last April, but no-one listened. However I have been asked more questions, some of which may be in people’s minds now, so I will attempt to answer them.

I have had my first vaccine dose, so it’s safe now to go out and about, isn’t it?

No. It isn’t. It will take about three weeks for protection to build up. Even then, you might still catch the coronavirus; the vaccine does not stop that. I don’t like the rules but follow them.

I am concerned about vaccine side-effects. There has been a lot in the news about these, and I am concerned that I might have a serious problem

The system is excluding people who might be at high risk of an allergic reaction and, because you are asked to wait for a short while after having it, you would have medical help on hand if you have a reaction. There has been a great deal of disinformation especially on the Internet, including the suggestion that governments are using vaccination to implant tracking microchips! It’s mostly nonsense. Yes, you may get a reaction such as a sore arm, a sniffle, brief fever or headache, but these are normal side-effects from almost any vaccine and are not serious. The idea that you might have a side-effect requiring admission to hospital (one correspondent suggested to me that the risk was 1 in 20) is fanciful. So far over 15 million doses have been administered yet I have not encountered any report of such a thing.

The bottom line is that you must consider risk (small) against benefit (potentially enormous). The main aim is to stop infection from progressing to the serious condition of Covid-19, and all the vaccines appear to do this. I have had my first dose!

I seems that vaccine fear is quite high among ethnic minority groups. This is worrying, because some of those groups are at high risk of developing severe Covid-19 if they get an infection, so it is really important that they get their jabs.

I read that the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t work against the South African variant. Can I ask to have one of the others?

What you get depends on what each centre has been issued with. I had the AstraZeneca one. Frankly I think they are all much of a muchness., though we await definitive results from research. It is possible that later in the year you might need a further dose of something slightly different, but this is the same as with flu vaccines, which change from year to year depending on the prevalent strain.

I have read about “Long Covid”. That seems to be very unpleasant.

Long Covid appears to be a particularly aggressive form of what we call a postviral syndrome. Because infection with the virus stimulates the immune system it’s not surprising that symptoms are similar to those seen in so-called “autoimmune” diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, where there is undue fatigue and a generalised feeling of ill-health apart from the joint problems. You can get similar symptoms after glandular fever. It’s not nice, but it goes away. It is possible that early treatment with steroids may stop it or at least limit it.

Talking of treatment, what are your views now on vitamin D and the drug that was in the news recently called Ivermectin?

Vitamin D can do no harm, and may help to protect you from what the virus does once inside you, though quite how it does this is still unclear. Ivermectin is a cheap drug widely used against parasitic infestations such as worms. Thus it has the potential to cure many nasty diseases, particularly in the third world. There’s a good article summarising its “wonder drug” status.

There is some evidence that it has antiviral properties and can kill off the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However formal trials are awaited. While the use of steroids and tocilizumab for Covid-19 did not really need trials because they were known to work in the cytokine storm syndrome, which is what Covid-19 is, Ivermectin has never been used as an antiviral agent. Watch this space – not least because it’s a very cheap drug.

There has been talk of an “elimination strategy”. What is your view on that?

Some people have used the analogy of the eradication of smallpox, but it is a false one. The smallpox virus did not mutate, so once the world was immunised that was it. The current coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is one of a very large series of coronaviruses, some of which have been around for decades, some of which don’t cause harm to humans, and some of which cause the common cold. Given the ability of them to mutate I believe that it will be impossible to eliminate this or any other one. In any case, very often a virus mutation causes it to be less dangerous even if more infectious. While the virus doesn’t consciously know it, increasing the virulence so it kills more people is not a good survival strategy.

When do you think lockdown will end?

Good question. Don’t know. Frustrated as I am, we need to be patient.

Image Credits: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay


  1. Really useful and informative article but it did make me chuckle when the first comment questioned your qualifications.
    With a bit of research you can see why he’s written it and the rest of us are reading it.


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