Webinar with Prof Chris Whitty

In News by John Geddes

RSM Covid Webinar – Interview with Prof Chris Whitty

During Lockdown, the Royal Society of Medicine has been holding a series of regular online webinars for members and guests, under the banner of “RSM Live”. We were fortunate to be invited to attend the event on 31st March, in the “Covid-19” series, with the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty as Guest Speaker and the topic, unsurprisingly, was Covid 19.

The presentation took the format of an interview with Prof Whitty, with Professor Sir Simon Wessley posing the questions.   We are all now familiar with seeing Chris Whitty on our screens; as Sir Simon pointed out, he is now a TV celeb and we might expect to see him soon on Strictly or Celebrity Bake Off.

But the Chris Whitty we saw here was much more relaxed and at ease, confidently and coherently  answering questions from his medical colleagues and peers  rather than when in the tense Downing Street briefings, fielding questions from journalists.

Various messages came across in the hour long interview.  In summary:-

  • There is no evidence to suggest a significant decline in immunity as time passes following vaccination.  The second dose reinforces and enhances immunity.
  • Early evidence seems to show that vaccination does result in a reduction in transmission.
  • There’s no discernible difference in effectiveness between the vaccines:” the best vaccine is the one you are getting!”
  • Antibody levels are not the only factor in disease resistance so they are not a reliable indicator of acquired resistance to Covid.
  • So far, some of the variant viruses are better at transmitting  (ie more infectious), which gives them an advantage, but so far they are not found to cause worse disease & are still vulnerable to the effect of the vaccines.
  • There is no evidence of increased anaphylaxis risk with the Astra Zeneca (Oxford) jab.
  • Medicine is always a matter of balancing risks with benefits;  for young children the risk of catching or suffering significant damage due to Covid is very small, so the advantage for them of having the vaccine is small, but any risks from the vaccine are the same for all ages.  Vaccinating young children solely to protect adults would be unethical.
  • All pandemics produce exponential growth ie they have a very high rate of spread, so prompt  effective measures are always needed.