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The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. Luke ONeil, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College in Dublin, good morning and welcome. Good morning.


Now, there are so many things to talk about this morning.


I referred to the Brazil variant, but you want to talk about the names we give them, the variants and how confusing that might be.


That's right. But the naming of these you see the cities in any systematic naming is the first problem. And to remember them is the big challenge. And as you say, Brazil is called P1. The South African one is B one three five one and the UK is B one one seven. But they don't like those country names attached to these because they might have started in that country. It's all you know, so they're trying to put some kind of systematic way of naming them and they may even use Hurrican naming type systems that they're considering next, if you can believe it.


But I like this. They're giving them nicknames. So the UK one was called Netty because the change in the UK one is an 501 y now the way the name of the names are based on the amino acid change. And as you may know, proteins are made of amino acids and the spike protein is the one that we're looking at here. And a single amino acid changed in the protein and change the way. Hence Neli.


Most of these nicknames stick is the next question, but everybody has a work in progress to try to come up with systematic names yet because they don't want people to be blamed for something that wasn't their fault. I mean, you can think of the Spanish flu, which didn't originate in Spain at all. Yeah, yeah.


And they're not very scientific names, although if you name it after the country, you see. So they're trying to get a I guess, a more scientific type thing. The real name for the the UK when it's now five oh one five one five one is the position of the amino acid, then it's five on one V2 is South Africa and five or one V three is Brazil. But it's quite tricky to keep your head around those, isn't it?


They're very, very ungainly names, really.


So we've had a nickname for one mutant dog. Why do they call the dog?


Well, that was an amino acid. It was desex one for Nadie, if anybody, any biochemist. This thing indeed is aspire to Gosset and G is glycine. And many of these proteins are like like a necklace with B's on a string, you know, and each bead is an amino acid. If one of those beads changes, then we know the protein has changed. So D six on G was dog and the red, the one we worry about is called E four eight four K, that's called Eric.


But then there was a guy in the lab called Eric who didn't like it, so they renamed it eat so they wouldn't defend him. But but he e for eight four k that's the one that might be less targeted by antibodies. That's the one that's in the Brazilian and the South African one you see. So it's quite important because the amino acid change can change the shape of the protein. It is literally like looking like a necklace and you change.


One of the whole thing changes a bit, you know. So again, they're trying to come up with some more more systematic way of naming them. I think Eric is in the bottom, though. I mean, Nely is being used widely, by the way. So Nely and when y whenever you hear Nely, it means that amino acid has changed and it's like, yeah, but Nely might have different personalities.


I mean, does not nearly occur in the UK and the South African and the Brazilian strain's exactly when they found nevea first in the UK one let's call it the UK Winnellie.


But next thing, Netley is also in the Brazilian one.


And that is what's happening is that one good thing is that their thinking is these mutations may there may be no more of them. You know, they're dominating the fact that Netty turned up in three separate strains independently means that may be the way the virus will evolve, whatever it is, you know. So we may end up with a limited number of mutant space then a number no variants, which we'd love, because then the idea of a universal vaccine becomes closer.


So if we can redesign the vaccines to cope with Neli particularly, we'd be doing a great job.


Yeah, amante nevea vaccine would work against all three strains, for instance, because it's in all three. Yeah, it is a strange I don't remember.


I hope people listening in will be able to say ninety is in the UK, Brazilian and South African variant you see. So it's easy to remember as opposed to inviable one. Why isn't it so. I guess that's why scientists scientists sometimes use nicknames to help them remember things as you say things. It's not that unusual.


Now, there was all sorts of interesting stuff speculated about the Fizer vaccine, one from Pfizer themselves saying it doesn't have to be at minus seventy five, which might make it more user friendly. And the second thing is how much immunity you get from one jab only. Yeah, exactly.


Yeah. No, that was last on Friday, as you say. But every day there's news about this. They kept about minus seventy initially because ah and an RNA vaccine and RNA is very unstable. So they tried minus seventeen. It worked. Moderna came out and then the virus works, ours keeps at minus 20 and it's RNA as well. And that put Pfizer under pressure. So they tested there is a minus 20 and lo and behold it's stable at minus 20.


So this shift that now they're looking for approval now for from the FDA to that to sort of minus 20, that could well shift from the minus 70 to minus 20, which is great, obviously, for storage purposes. So I suspect in a week or so the recommendation will be to store the Pfizer one, though, minus twelve. As well, just like Madrona and then more importantly, but in some ways, this first shock business, two stories came out on Friday, a Canadian study and an Israeli study both showing that one shot gives you 85 percent plus protection, which is higher than fires which set.


So the fires of trial. Said it was 52 percent protection from the first shot. These follow on studies of increased estimates over 85 percent, which is pretty good because that means after one shot, then people can expect to be protected. Now, does it still take a few days, of course, maybe 10 days for the police to kick in. But certainly it looks as if that could turn into one shot vaccine at this hotel.


Now, what about, therefore, getting as many shots into as many arms as we can, given the amount of the Fizer vaccine we might have available and relatively small quantities of Moderna for whatever reason? But would it make sense?


And then if you have to have a second shot, well, why not give them AstraZeneca? Because you were talking last week about how mixing the different kinds of vaccines might actually give you better protection. Yeah, that's right.


And the UK have done that. And the UK are giving a 12 week gap for Pfizer. And they start was a bit of a risk because the trial said to you, use 21 days as a gap, remember? And they said, oh, no, we think it should be possible to go with the 12 weeks. They could well be right, because that does suggest that you'll have sustained protection. Of course, if that wasn't the case, you want to get the second in check more quickly, you see.


But now it looks as if you could get away with a bit longer of an interval between them. Then your problem is there's no there's no specific trial date on that, which is why people have gone for the two shots recommended by Pfizer themselves that keep the two shots, because that's what our big study has shown. You know, but again, this sort of data shows that it's emerging all the time, isn't it? And the guidelines will change based on data.


And remember, we're driven by the data, aren't we? And those two separate studies agree with each other, which is pretty good. It's independent of each other, you know, and over 85 percent after the first shot is as good as the Johnson and Johnson first shot vaccine, for instance. So if we fast forward, I bet they'll become one shot. Vaccines, Maddern and Pfizer. Yeah.


And the confidence that Johnson and Johnson have to say, look, this is only a one shot vaccine. That's all one job when you're done. And where does that confidence come from?


Is it the style of vaccine the JMJ have produced? Yeah, that's right.


Exactly. They have a slightly different kind of vaccine anyway, and they measure this massive response in that trial. You see, I guess, Pfizer or anything as far as the might have just been a bit too cautious in a way to come back on this. They only looked at symptomatic people turning up on, you know, during the trial, whereas, look, asymptomatic people and symptomatic that that rate of response goes up, I guess, for Johnson and Johnson's vaccine definitely works is the one shot, you know, but more and more evidence suggests that Pfizer should be the same.


Now, let's talk about vitamin D, because we know that the powers that be here are very milk and watery about the prospect of recommending vitamin D, even though we know it can't do any harm.


I mean, how difficult is it to OD on vitamin D?


Very hard. Yeah, it's really difficult to Odegard it actually, to be honest. Again, these guidelines obviously about the dose you take, there are six separate studies for the sixth one came out on Friday from Heidelberg in Germany showing a really strong correlation with vitamin D deficiency and then severe disease. And this this is an independent thing from what other variables like let's say you're vitamin D deficient. That might mean you take this exercise as well and that might put you at risk, you know, but it turns out this is independent of other of other things.


Basically, I think it's an independent risk factor from other things that might be in you as aware, you know. So a six study has confirmed now that if you're a vitamin D deficient, you will have a difficult time with this disease. And the numbers are startling. But I mean, and one study, there was a 25 fold increase risk of ending up in the ICU. You know, if you are deficient in vitamin D, for example, another German study, fifteen fold increase, risk of ICU admission if you're vitamin D deficient.


And again, remember, they're saying this is independent of other things that might be in those people. So the evidence is really compelling now that if you're vitamin D deficient, you're at much higher risk of developing severe disease. They look at ICU admissions and then need for ventilation. And sadly, death, of course, is the other metric. It was a six fold increase risk in deaths in the German study if you're vitamin D deficient. So so, again, it's absolutely compelling a company where they disagree.


If fight if you give someone vitamin D in hospital, that's why there's a bit of disagreement. So let's say someone turns up in hospital and you give them vitamin D A therapy. There hasn't been a double blind placebo controlled trials strong enough to be convincing for that. There was one down in Spain, you remember Ricardo. But when they did that. But the numbers are quite small and it wasn't that clear. But certainly if you can keep your vitamin D levels, OK, let's put it that way, you're much lower risk of ending up in hospital and ending up with severe disease.


So it's a very simple intervention, isn't it?


Now, one of the pieces I read about it suggested that when they're in hospital, the therapeutic dose of people who are vitamin D deficient might be 20 times what you might take on a daily basis yourself to keep your vitamin D levels up. But they talked about activated vitamin D. What is that what's the difference in vitamin D and activated vitamin D? It's just this just does its job a bit better, I suppose, in your body. I mean, you make vitamin D in your skin from sunlight and then it gets turned on and does its job tremendously well.


That's the activated form. You can give that as a drug as well. Now, your body itself, though, will activate it. So I guess it's just the way to soup it up. That's the interesting part. The high dose idea. You're trying to really give a huge amount in hospital to save someone. You're giving us a therapy. You know where it is. The natural amounts can be lower than that was that was an effort to really ramp up the whole thing, I suppose, in terms of clinical trial.


So, as I say, they're still not recommending giving high dose vitamin D yet if you're in hospital. But they may they may move to that, you know, to try to restore if you're deficient as the way to think of it. But certainly the recommendation is anybody over 50, probably another great study, actually, 55 percent of over 50s in Ireland. Are vitamin D deficient in the winter because when not get enough sunlight, you see. So again, anybody over 50 should really consider taking a vitamin D supplement and just go to your pharmacy very cheap.


You can buy a big a big bucket of them, you know, and take them every day.


That's the strong recommendation right now. The fourth topic we want to deal with is Israel, because they have galloped ahead. I mean, very shrewd idea to make a deal with Big Pharma to say, look, let us as a country with a relatively small population, nine million, let us try and be the first to vaccinate the entire population or as many as possible and use us as the canary in the coal mine. If there's anything wrong with the vaccine, it'll show up.


If there are side effects, they'll show up.


If it really works well, it'll show up. What is showing up in Israel?


I think we owe them a debt of gratitude. But in the end, as long as I give the vaccine to the Palestinians and there is vaccine going into Gaza, which is good, they stopped that briefly there. You know, I know Gaza is getting vaccine. That's the only thing we worry about their sense. But certainly they are the ones that are doing a fantastic job and they're looking at all the data. Every day, new data comes out of Israel to inform us as to what's happening.


You know, and that's remarkable. I mean, they've got forty six percent of the people now vaccinated. Thirty percent of the second dose, and then the numbers get better and better, 50 percent drop in cases in 16 to 21 year olds. They're giving it to those younger people. Now, 90 percent are over seventy seven, two doses. And then yesterday probably saw the reopened. I mean, the first Mancino on the back of vaccination to start reopening.


And it was a year to the day after their first case. There was a a celebration in Israel that they now see themselves as coming out. They open shops and leisure facilities and now they're the first country pop to show this green pass. I'd have to show you've been vaccinated to allow you into a gym or a theatre. Actually, there the two places they mentioned, you've got to show that you've been vaccinated to be low end. Now, the question is, will we do that?


The big the big question for other countries is that we just follow Israel now and do exactly what they're doing in a sense. You know, now, luckily, we can now watch them over the next few weeks and just see if the rate goes up again, because now they've reopened. Now, remember, many countries, the rates are going down because of all the things we're doing anyway, you know, but the vaccine is certainly a big add on in Israel.


They've shown that scientifically now that a big reason is the vaccination campaign.


Now they're still asking people to wear masks and keep social distance. But the the idea of the Green Party, if you've had the two shots, you get a green pass and you're free to do things that people who don't have the green pass are not free to do.


That's the. That's right. Yeah.


It'll be interesting to watch that space.


Now, just some of the other stuff that I've been reading in my few days off and covid infections in hospital staff down 90 percent since the rollout of vaccines. Yeah, again, impressive.


Well, again, you see, that'll be a but that's a combination of good people, you see, and good doing everything else. I mean, there's no doubt vaccines are an add on to what people have been doing better, I suppose, is the way to think of it. And you're quite right. We need to have this phase of vaccines close for definite because lots of people aren't vaccinated. Some have only had one shot of a different vaccine, you know, so there's no doubt in the coming months we'll have the vaccines are our great weapon.


Of course they are. But the other stuff works as well. So we're doing both. That really will help us. And the health care workers. Precisely. The things plummeted amongst health care workers, which is tremendous. And the vaccines must be playing a big role there as well.


The down side of the stuff I've been reading, 37 children under the age of 12 were hospitalised with covid-19 in the last two weeks in the zero to four age group.


Nineteen were hospitalised in the five to twelve age group, 18 were hospitalised.


Now, none of them ended up in ICU.


Yeah, but kids in hospital, just as we're about to open the schools for the younger cohort.


I know. Yeah, well, there was a risk that even those extremely low remember in children, you do see cases here and there, it must be said. But as you say, none of those became severe. It really in some ways it's going to become more a severe disease and anything else, you know, and remember, all three of the vaccines we have in Ireland are 100 percent protective against severe disease and hospitalisation. So even though children might might get infected, they may show a few rather more troubling symptoms.


They can be treated well and then that's the other great fun as well, the new therapies anyway, therapies and hospitals and treating patients are better to. Now, some of the questions coming in from Newstalk listeners, from Davinder Leery, when Paul Reid says we will innoculate over a million in April. Does that include Johnson and Johnson vaccines as they think about PMA approval yet?


I bet it does. Very interestingly, again, more news this morning. Denmark, I like to remember there, depending on the EU, they say that of all their people done by June 27, which is well ahead of us, isn't it? Why can't we be like Denmark, is the question? Because they're going to say now they have said, look, that's our ambition. We need the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to make sure we get to that point.


And then we need to make sure the supply of dollars keeps coming up. So they've said it could be delayed, but the only thing that could stop us now is supply. You see, nothing else should be a variable here of any kind. In other words, as soon as we get the vaccines and get them into people's arms and we be like Denmark, I'd love it if the foreign minister of health said our goal is June 27, just like Denmark, to have our whole population vaccinated.


And like the Danes said, it's just before the summer holidays as a way to cheer people off, I suppose, you know, so that's the kind of thing. But it does depend on Johnson and Johnson. There's no doubt that they can kind of project the supply chain anyway, because obviously Pfizer and Zeneca and Madrid have told them how much they can give them that that might fall down. As we discussed before, things can go wrong and the factory can shut down for some unknown reason.


You know, so there are unknowns there. But certainly if the supply is, as they say, it should be with Johnson and Johnson as well. The Deans have said June 27. I think we should be aiming for that as well.


And that's yeah, put our cards on the table and be ambitious. Yeah, I'm just contemplating the politics of all of this because they made such a haimes of things before Christmas that they may want to on this occasion with the living with covid plan to under promise and then over deliver because they've been over promising and under delivering, which is always bad news for a politician. So maybe that's a strategy.


I think it's all about managing and managing expectations as well, partly because if it tells us, you know, in our lives, if you tell us and they're expecting it, then if we don't deliver it, you're in trouble. You know, but I'd like to be as punchy as the Danes were new because that'll be a great thing to say. At the end of June, we'd have our country vaccinated now. Might end up in September. If the supply is a problem, that's not the government's fault.


If supply goes down, you see. So I don't see why they wouldn't do that. But again, a change of tack, I think instead of putting dates on things for various milestones in opening up, they're going to say when the rate, the daily rate of infection reaches a certain level, then we can contemplate, rather than saying on the 14th of March, we'll do this or the 25th of April will do.


The other is going to be, you know, databased rather than date based.


Now, another one, if you look at I'm 35, been suffering from long covid since March last year. Eggs all over the chest and back, sore throat, shortness of breath.


Do you think I should take the vaccine when it's my turn or wait until my symptoms subside? That's from Barry in Dublin.


I would I take the vaccine as soon as you're offered it, remember, because you're still at risk of, you know, possibly getting infected. That's still not fully clear. A member and certainly with the newer strains, the Brazilian one that we're now, I'll talk about the P1, as we still call it, that there's a risk of that reinfecting. People have already been infected. You see, in fact, in Brazil, they're suggesting that might be the case.


So I would definitely get the vaccine as soon as you can to protect you, you know, because obviously the vaccine, as we say, is the best suit of armour you can put on against this in this situation.


So I definitely got the vaccine as a suggestion from a newstalk listener listening to what was said about Israel.


Shouldn't we be actively getting organised with the green pass so that we'll have it ready when we are prepared to use it rather than say, oh, let's let's try and organise design a green pass now when so many people will already have been vaccinated?


Yeah, this one from a newstalk listener from in Golway. Can you ask Luke I'm on Rituximab infusions six monthly for rheumatoid arthritis.


I've been informed by my rheumatologist that the vaccines will be less effective, possibly by 50 percent, because it affects my B cells.


Firstly, will be this the case for every vaccine, or are there any new vaccines that are not reliant on the B cells being healthy? And secondly, will it also mean a reduction by 50 percent of the 100 percent efficacy against getting serious illness or hospitalisation?


Well, that's true. That's true. That's the one immunosuppressant that they wonder about because it does take out your B cells and you definitely need B cells or vaccine stock, the B cells might the antibodies you see. So there's talk with that drug now of people coming off rituximab actually and then having the vaccine. They haven't recommended that yet, but it's something that's being watched. I suggest they'll still say get the vaccine, even if it's 50 percent less efficacious.


That's still a good level of efficacy, remember? So I suspect that's what the recommendation will be.


My wife received her first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. We found out that she's pregnant. Now, can you ask Luc, should we be worried?


There's a few cases like that, actually, not just the Zeneca. It's happened with Pfizer as well, because this happens again, nothing to worry about. There's no evidence at all that the vaccines will affect that. So I wouldn't worry about that for the moment.


Does it make sense to quarantine and demand PCR tests of people coming into the country even if they have been vaccinated? That's from Gensen Clonakilty.


That's a good question. Yes, I haven't thought about that, to be honest. I suspect so. Yeah, because remember the vaccine, what we're seeing at the moment is very clear. Actually, the vaccine will stop you getting severe disease and ending up in hospital, which is mission one with the vaccine. Remember, there's still a risk. You might have tiny amounts of virus on board and you might may well be a little bit infectious. So why not test people?


Although, mind you, the other study last week showed after vaccination, you're four times less virus in your nose than if you haven't been vaccinated. Sort of decrease the dose for definite, you know, but that's not a bad idea. You might as well test people. They've been vaccinated all the mind. You go against the greenhouse idea because we have to assume that the vaccines work, Jizzy. Yeah, and they were waiting for the evidence to show that people who have been vaccinated and who are now fully immunised just as far as possible from the particular vaccine, that they don't spread at the thing even if they get it in their nose.


We don't know that yet.


Please ask Luke what he thinks about German citizens apparently rejecting the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the South African and Brazilian strains. That's from GM.


Yeah, I think that's a mistake. I mean, as I said earlier, all those vaccines prevent severe disease. And even though we don't really know about the positive one, that's still a bit of an unknown. It's likely that any vaccine will give you some protection. You see, it might not be as powerful as, say, against the strain the vaccine was made against. But I think there's a good chance that all the vaccines will stop severe disease and any variants.


Now, again, that needs to be confirmed, you know, including the Brazilian one. So even that you might get infected, say you might have some symptoms, you may end up in hospital, you never know. But you're unlikely to progress into severe disease with the Brazilian one if you've taken the current vaccines. But again, it's very much a work in progress. As we know, the best thing to do is to heat up as anyone down just in case, remember, which is important, you see.


And yet we had two and a half thousand people came back from Brazil and they claim that the cases they found had all gone into voluntary quarantine and so on. But you'd want to be an incredible optimist to believe they've caught it all and asked if I can have the covid vaccine, if I'm on BCG vaccine for bladder cancer.


I've been offered the covid job.


My consultant is on maternity leave and I've known to advise me I'm 73. That's mad.


You want to double check, though, with just in case, because any of those things you want to check with your GP, actually, because they'll be more things in your medical records. So I couldn't give an exact advice. But but BCG, remember, those trials are still running. BCG is a good thing, but that's kind of like a non-specific protector, which puts up a little suit of armour as well. So I suspect if you're on BCG, that that may well be a benefit to you.


So in saying if they have a variant coming out of Hawaii, could they not call it Hawaii five? Oh, I'm sure. Well, that's a great one. Very good. Will you ask Professor Lugo, Neil, is the vaccination suitable for someone over 70 with COPD?


That's from Dorene.


Yeah, I believe so, yes. Like COPD, a high risk factor, remember? So if you've got any of those underlying conditions like COPD or diabetes, definitely get the vaccine because it'll it'll help you.


Obviously, you know, if you're in a high risk group, a couple of quick ones. Finally, can you ask Luke what the recommended vitamin D dose would be and does the brand matter? There are cheaper brands. Are they the same as the dearer brands wants? The doses is the same. I've been giving vitamin D to my family following listening to Luke.


Yeah, I think Tipperary, I'm pretty sure they're all the same. It's the usual thing. But you can buy a generic, you can buy a fancy label on the thing if you like, but they're all pretty similar and the doses in those capsules are the ones to take. Look at the label. Basically I think it's 800 units to 12 under some raised. But double check on the label basically always follow the instructions for these things, remember? And as we said out of your part, it's most unlikely you'll overdose.


You take a huge amount of overdose. And the bottom line of the vitamin D thing, as I say, is even if the evidence is a bit plus minus, it'll still help your bones, remember, which is a good thing if you're over 50, you know. So that's another reason to take.


All right. Well, lots to talk about today, and I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about on Thursday. Luke O'Neil, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College in Dublin, thank you very much for joining us.