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 O'Neil, good morning. You're always glass half full, aren't you? Cup of tea, cup of tea is half full this morning. I like this one of my cup of tea. All right.
Well, I want you here. I want my second cup already at 35 past nine.
We want to talk about the superheroes of our immune system. You've been talking about T cells for as long as I've known you. And they've become particularly important in the context of covid-19. And it now looks like they could be the superheroes. Really? Yeah, that that put covid-19 back where it belongs.
Very much so. This is your monthly immunology lecture time of the year. Ready, because I'd like to update you regularly. I know, because. That's right. That's right.
But no, no, I mean, the T cell is a really important part of the immune system, even obsessed with antibodies. And they're marvellous. Of course they are. Antibodies like blue attack is the analogy on the spike of the virus and stops the virus getting inside your cells. So we have antibodies because they they kind of act on the virus to stop it entering. But the T cell is the general of the immune system can recognize loads of parts of the virus.
It's much less likely that the virus will escape t cells of the idea. And of course, one of our concerns is these new variants that crop up. And they can they seem to dodge antibodies more readily than T cells. The immune system's clever. It's got a second army, if you like, T cells, and it looks like they they may well be the ones that will save us. And good evidence. Last week, the variants that are out there, t cells can still kill them.
It's not good. So we're going to less concern this week about these variants. There's still a concern, of course, because they are cropping up and the worry would be why is that? And so on. But the evidence that was leaked was good that the T cells might be there to help us show the antibodies fail, basically.
One thing I've been kind of saying to people based on listening to you and listening to others is when we hear about fear and so we hear about the efficacy of vaccines.
It's not that the vaccines don't work, it's just that they might not work as well as they did against the original vaccine. And the the unknown here really is that t cell response.
We won't know that until such time as it's in bodies and in bodies for a while.
Precisely. And you need data from the fields basically to see if the vaccines are failing or nothing and know that hasn't happened yet. There's some evidence that they take blood off someone who's been vaccinated and the antibodies don't work quite as well. And the test tube, that kind of thing, you know, but we need some real world data now to see if the vaccines aren't as efficacious with these variants. Now, as you say, Jonathan, I mean, even if they're a little bit less efficacious, if they got the 60 percent efficacy, that's still a great you know, for a vaccine.
It's superb. You see. So so, again, it's a work in progress. It does worry us. Of course, we'll keep a close, close eye on it. And we don't want more variants coming up, by the way. That's the next thing we we will think about. But the truth is, at the moment, you know, these variants, the vaccine should work. It's a funny one. We didn't think the virus would change as quickly.
If you'd asked me six or nine months ago, I would say this is a slow changing virus is much slower than flu, for example, to attend to the rate of flu. And yet some of these variants are cropping up. And we'd like to know why that is, by the way. But still, even if they crop up, the hope is that the immune system can still handle them.
Is it that cropping up because there is so much spread, the virus needs people. And the more people it has, the higher the likelihood that there will be some form of genetic mutation.
I mean, the reason why we don't mutate over time is it takes a long time for our life cycle to complete. The virus lifecycle is done and dusted in a couple of days. Exactly.
That's exactly the point of spreading like a lot and therefore a lot lots of, you know, new viruses crop up in that situation. So they're going to lower the spread of the vaccine, hence the need to get the vaccine out as quickly as we can. And that that's one big reason. The second is a strange one, that we might be driving at ourselves, because if you give somebody antibody therapy, there's a chance the virus might dodge that and the variants may have cropped up.
And people we've treated, you know, with antibody therapies, for example, or secondly, someone is chronically infected. They didn't like we didn't expect this. And some people carry the virus for months now. There's a chance in that single person then there's more chance for the virus to change. You know, there are two options that we didn't know about, say, six, nine months ago, science. The science keeps changing, obviously, on this.
So we've got to be always ready for new information coming along. But there are some of the reasons why we think some of these the three variants at the moment, not all of them. You know, in HIV, people don't realise the AIDS virus that mutates at 100 times the rate of this IV covid-19 and you get 100000 variants in a single HIV infected person. And one of those might be more troublesome, you know, so it's a lot less sort of changeable in terms of as a virus.
Yeah, but the virus and the way it's constructed itself is it when I didn't notice, but it made it easier to create vaccines because of the spike protein and being able to identify it.
That is of huge advantage to science and is being exploited.
And that's why the vaccines were developed so quickly.
Exactly. Yeah, that was something else that we didn't want to protect it slightly at the start. But it turns out it's quite easy to make a vaccine in the end. Because that spike can be masked with the blue blues idea, you know, and that turned out to be straightforward. The trouble is, of course, that spike can change a little bit because it's clever in a sense, you know, and therefore you might escape that. But that's right that the vaccine was, in retrospect, was a bit easier than we thought for using the spike.
Is the way to get at this.
You know, could there be I mean, I was reading over the weekend in The New York Times that they're now looking at I call it a miracle cure, but some form of vaccine that can be given to younger people that blitz's all coronaviruses, i.e. the common cold covid-19 and whatever its warped caused might be in a decade's time.
I mean, is that pie in the sky or could that become reality?
Very much so. The cold pan coronavirus vaccines and meaning all of them really, you know, and they're now being developed interestingly and there's optimism we might get one and that will be important obviously for new strains that emerge. But secondly, just should there be a chance of another coronavirus infecting us down the line? We're here to talk about another pandemic, but let's get ready for that. They're going to make these pun coronavirus vaccines. They've got one that might work against SARS and SARS on Kobie two, you know, the two different viruses, the chance of a vaccine against both of those, you see.
So it's a big work in progress. I want to make one of these kind of coronavirus vaccines. It was happening with the flu already. They were hoping to get a vaccine for all strains of flu and they're coming pretty close to it. I mean, they almost got there about a year ago, for instance. So that notion of a general vaccine against all strains and all coronavirus isn't pie in the sky anymore. What's happening to the amount of effort you can imagine?
The huge amounts of money going into this huge research is happening for it for obvious reasons. We've been galvanized, haven't we, by this? So you may well see a vaccine for flu vaccine for the common cold and a vaccine that will treat any kronenburg. And that's a ways off. It's not going to happen in the next few months, you know, but massive work in progress there.
Some of the questions that have come in from just our listeners, Luke, investigators from the World Health Organization looking into the origins of coronavirus in China have discovered since the outbreak was wider than previously thought.
Why are we looking now? Why are we not looking for more samples from over there to see what they knew and when this is breaking news?
That's a very astute listener. At 4:00 a.m. this morning, Jonathan, on CNN, an exclusive, the interview, the scientists who just come back from China, really long ranging interview. And I read this interview 30 minutes ago, somebody I've just come across to myself. But the fact is those scientists went into China, 17 of them. They boarded up at 17. Chinese scientists spent the last few weeks examining this. And it looks like it was more, much more widespread than we first thought.
There may have been as many as a thousand people infected in December, which is a lot more than was thought. Initially, 15 percent of people had severe disease. So, again, they knew the Chinese knew in December. This is a very, very severe disease. And more importantly, they found 13 different strains. Can you believe it in these samples?
Now, these strains are there's no major difference between them, but that meant that must have hit the parental strain, must have been in October or November that gave rise to those strains and the body and not necessarily in Wuhan either.
Well, that's the other thing that's amazing, analyzing samples from inside and outside markets. First of all, they find samples across the city almost, you know, and may well have come from outside Wuhan. So it looks like to me as if this this report will change our view of where this virus came from. It's not simply a case of someone in that market suddenly spreading it. That's not the case. Now, at least a thousand people were infected in December.
And the big question, it looks like they haven't revealed that this is a press conference. So we've got to look at more closely at this. But it looks like it was much more widespread in China than was first reported.
Question from a listener. I'm wondering if you could ask Luke if it's safe for someone with MS on Gilenya and Vampira right here to get the vaccine?
It is absolutely. This is a big message to everyone, anybody on immunosuppressants or therapies for any of these diseases. It's OK to have the vaccine check with your doctor, though, very importantly, just in case the kids might be on something else and your medical history is going to be important. But being on an immunosuppressant does not exclude you from this vaccine. The reason is that the vaccine is not a live virus. So some vaccines are live viruses that have been weakened in some way.
They don't give those to people, I mean suppressants because they might get going in the body, you know, but these vaccines are all not alive. So they can be used on people in those kinds of medications.
Lots of people are a bit frustrated with the roll out plan for the vaccine. And AstraZeneca was supposed to go to the Overhasty five now that given them Pfizer and AstraZeneca is being, we think, used on all the front line workers.
But realistically, what are we going to do with the rest of the AstraZeneca when it starts to come in in the next few weeks?
Here's one from Liam News headline this morning.
Say We'll be rolling out 80000 vaccines this week, which is brilliant if we're true. But is it really true?
I can vaccinate if we can vaccinate 80000 per week for the next two months, we should have everybody getting their first shot. By the middle of April, however, listening to GPS being interviewed, it appears the real weekly numbers are far lower than 80000 per week that the government are spinning. What are the real numbers? Why are we so slow but rolling it out?
And can we have a more effective vaccination program?
Yeah, it's a bit frustrating for everybody, isn't it, in the way I look at the UK or envious of the UK. How can they do it if we can't, you know, now have no doubt and ramp up hugely. That's the plan. I guess they don't exactly know the precise numbers. That might sound a bit strange, but you've got to get enough supply and mobilise all the vaccinators, which means GPS, pharmacies, everybody. So the numbers are moving around a little bit.
But I wouldn't be too concerned. I would predict in four weeks time watch. We'll have a huge amount of vaccination that will have happened in this country, which will be tremendous in the community, you know, but it is frustrating. People want to get it as soon as possible. Obviously, the government have to have this is mission one, obviously, to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can.
But the challenge that and where Britain is showing us up a little bit is they took a decision, possibly not based on the best science that was available to put very long periods of up to 12 weeks between the first and the second vaccination, which meant they could do more and offer some form of protection to that group.
Now, particularly with AstraZeneca, the W.H always come out and said up to 12 weeks is fine. If anything, it might be more efficacious in younger people to leave time between the doses. Yes, we are still religiously following the three four week protocol.
I mean, could that change and could that be a significant difference in the speed at which the vaccines rolled out here?
I press for that, to be honest, because there's evidence that if you leave for 12 weeks, it's more difficult, the scientific evidence to support that. Now, you see, so so I would support the notion of pushing it to 12 weeks for definite you know, there are slightly maybe. I mean, one challenge we have is a bit too much caution here and there. And in some ways, Brussels was a bit cautious as well. And of course, if something went wrong, we really kicked wasn't you know, so sometimes that caution is justifiable.
But in this case, I don't see why you couldn't point out the AstraZeneca for 12 weeks because that the evidence suggests it's even better, you know, and then remember, it's a very good vaccine. People shouldn't be hesitant about taking that vaccine, especially if you're under 70, because the data is there for the under 70s. It's very efficacious. So anybody offered AstraZeneca should take it.
And that cohort, you know, I want you to talk listeners sort of a conundrum here. Look, I don't know whether they're listening to us across the border or not. I received the AstraZeneca virus last week, told to have the second one in four weeks time. I'm 71 years of age. Will I have the same protection as someone under 65?
Well, again, there's evidence not from the trial that it works. And people over 70, it was smaller numbers. It was got a phase two trial. And that vaccine really kicked off the immune system and people over 70. That's why the EMA approved it for that age group, by the way, because they said, look, it looks like work on the phase two. It's bound to work in the phase three as well. So I wouldn't have any hesitancy over that.
I was over 65 either, just because that data would suggest it should work in that age group. Very well, you know. Yeah.
And just just take whatever vaccine is there because it they give you infinitely more protection than you currently have, which is the sum total of non Martin sorts.
As my cousin lives in England, he's getting his first job on Wednesday. He's 65, like me. No underlying conditions. Where does I have heart disease and many conditions? Why are we different?
Brexit was right, says Martin, who was understandably a bit frustrated when see all the AstraZeneca coming in.
And at the moment it's not been given to the over 70s groups. It could be given to 65 to 69 and it could be given to people under 65 if they have certain conditions that covid likes.
Yeah, if I can put it that way, yeah.
Why are they reluctant to kind of touch their rollout plan?
Because if they start giving it to the younger cohort before the older people get it.
And are they afraid of a backlash. What what's the hesitancy there?
Look, I mean, you'd like to think that if they can start giving it out to younger people, AstraZeneca in particular, and spread out the doses, all of a sudden the landscape changes quite considerably.
I agree with that entirely. They need to be more bold, I suppose, is the word you might use, if that's the correct word for this. There are they are cautious. Remember, when they've taken their time, maybe it's a bit slow. They're saying they're a bit frustrated about it, but they are being cautious. And maybe they could be a bit more bold about this. If we've allowed that AstraZeneca vaccine in Ireland, we should begin to use it as widely as possible because and remember, the dream is if I was a magician, wave my magic wand and vaccinate everybody now, you know, be fantastic, wasn't it?
But we just can't do that, given the various logistical issues that are now in front of us. And then the next vaccine is coming soon. Johnson and Johnson, the Novavax will be awash with vaccines by the time we get to April, May time watch and then to be widespread vaccination by then, you see. But this phase, I can see how people are getting frustrated. Alright, it's that frustration continues. Of course, it won't be good for us either.
Ramp it up.
And that's what I was talking about at the start. This frustration that's there that was always going to be supply and demand issues. But there. The sense of being told you're not going anywhere, this has to stay the same. Nothing is changing and automatically people's response is, well, we know what a potential solution is.
Why aren't we doing more about exactly one question here from a listener? Please ask Luke O'Neil. His opinion has. I'm very worried, says this news struck listener Ivan Cellulitis twice from the flu vaccine. I'm so anxious to get vaccinated as a serious underlying condition. And I've been trapped indoors for a year. I've had a tetanus jab last year without a problem. Cellulitis, I suppose that's a response of the immune system of some kind to the vaccine going into the arm.
Is there a risk with this vaccine as there would be with the flu?
I shouldn't think so. No, I don't think so. But again, check with the vaccinator, as always, the advice to be on the safe side, because there'll be details that I wouldn't know of it. Just check with your GP is the best person, by the way, to check with you because they don't know your medical records. But I shouldn't think there should be a problem that the vast majority of people can be vaccinated. There shouldn't be too many concerns about many underlying conditions.
But again, GP's will know that I shouldn't use the vaccine in that particular person, you know, but the vast majority should be fine.
And I suppose, look, we'll finish on a positive look. We're trying to be positive this morning, Chris. Stories in the news there. This research from Israel, 94 percent drop in symptomatic covid-19 cases. Who got people who got two doses of Fizer Bentek, a 600000 people.
So that's a big chunk of people. No. And the same group, 92 percent less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.
That shows that the trial that prompted the led to the legalising of the vaccine was pretty much bang on, if not a little bit understating it.
There are two or three really good things actually over the weekend. One was that the Israelis have released, updated six hundred thousand people, ninety four percent drops and protection, basically, which is superb. In other words, that's showing outbreaks in the wild and not just in the medical trial. Secondly, a great study that Israeli scientists were given 15000 samples, some of them vaccinated, some Harbin's and they were blind, didn't know which was which. And the ones who've been vaccinated four times this virus and their noses, which is tremendous.
So that means that we'll stop transmission, which was the good thing. And then the CDC in America and to see this, that they announced, if you have been vaccinated, you don't need to go into quarantine if you come across someone who is positive, you know what I mean? In other words, they are now saying, look, the vaccine working, remember, before you have to isolate for two weeks, if you're with somebody who tested positive but never vaccinated and you are with someone who subsequently is positive, you don't need to go to the quarantine anymore.
So, again, they're confident that the vaccine is highly protective for people. So, again, that we knew this in the trials. Obviously, that was all there already, you know, but now this is real world data. Millions and millions in America are being vaccinated. It's amazing. And I think it was two million yesterday were vaccinated, some number like that. So, again, we're going to see loads of data now coming from all these vaccinated people and the Israelis who got their first say this is a vaccine that works gangbusters.
OK, so that's that's really good.
Look, we take that as optimistic on the day that we start vaccinating our over 85. Exactly. But behind what we got there. Luke O'Neil, pleasure as always. Professor Luke ONeil from Trinity College, Dublin, thank you very much for joining us at.