Public health boss hails vaccine effort as Islington reports lowest infection rate in London

Islington is currently reporting the lowest Covid infection rates in London

Islington Council’s public health director has extolled the effectiveness of the Covid vaccination programme, with the borough reporting the lowest infection rate in the capital.

According to Jonathan O’Sullivan, the positivity rate shown from the around 10,000 lateral flow tests showed up at less than 0.1 per cent locally, with hardly any admissions being seen at the borough’s hospitals.

The Whittington over the last three weeks has averaged around one admission a week from Covid, with no deaths from the virus in the last four weeks.

Islington last week had around 10 cases per 100,000 people, with no new cases in people over 60 for about a fortnight.

O’Sullivan, updating councillors last Thursday, said: “That is really tremendous stuff, and is partly telling us about how hard everyone has worked to keep each other safe.

“It is also telling us something about the effectiveness of the vaccinations. We have had good news in the last week or so which tells us that the vaccinations are effective in real life.

“A gigantic study carried out by the Office for National Statistics showed that even on a first vaccination dose you get a high level of protection against any risk of infection, but a really high protection against the most serious consequences of Covid. 

“Unfortunately because it does not look like the vaccination completely stops transmission, we are likely to be living with the virus for some time, even if we get very high vaccination levels, and it is going to highlight the importance of following other safety measures at the same time.”

O’Sullivan added that it was “still too soon to know” whether the second stage of easing of lockdown measures allowing people to meet in larger groups would translate into an increase in infections.

With a slowdown in the uptake of vaccinations in the borough across all age groups, O’Sullivan’s team and coronavirus response lead Cllr Sue Lukes announced that a number of pop-up clinics are now planned towards the end of this month.

Jab rates among the social care workforce are seeing a “continuing increase”, according to O’Sullivan, with the most recent data for care home staff showing 80 per cent in Islington have now had at least one vaccination.

Responding to quizzing from councillors on what protocols existed for the potential arrival of the variant currently gripping India, O’Sullivan revealed that his team had already conducted a desktop exercise simulation, adding that the latest indications are that vaccines will remain effective against it.

He said: “Your heart has to go out to the people of India, Brazil and other countries where their governments do not seem to have gotten a grip and protected the populations. 

“The whole issue on oxygen availability is a really awful thing. The variant in India does not seem to be as communicable as the Kent variant, which is the dominant variant still in the UK. It is unlikely to get much of a foothold if the dominant variant of Covid in the country is the Kent version.”