“The studies we are doing in the UK show that the third dose is very effective.”

Photo: www.gov.uk

Gemma Maldonado.
She has no doubt that with current surveillance systems for new pathogens causing emerging diseases, the world is not prepared to prevent future pandemics, which is why Dr. Isabel Oliver, director of the National Infection Service at UK public health agencyPresented in front of an audience global epidemiology forum Celebrate in Ifema, urgency “Make sure we have stronger global surveillance systems than we have now.”.

He developed his entire career on the other side of the English Channel, moving from internal medicine to epidemiology after graduating in medicine in Madrid. In the UK he held various positions of responsibility in the National Health Service (NHS) and now the department he heads houses one of the most advanced genetic sequencing systems in the world, “We sequence half of the positive cases.”, law Project.

Sequencing and sharing of information between countries and thus monitoring of novel variants of SARS-CoV-2 and emerging viruses are part of the keys that Dr. Oliver provides to avoid a recurrence of a crisis like Covid-19. Meanwhile, he celebrates the fact that the mask is still worn in Spain and defends the usefulness of the third dose of the vaccine, in an interview with iSanidad.

“The most important thing to prevent future epidemics is to make sure we have stronger global surveillance systems than we have now.”

How can countries prepare for the next pandemic?
The most important thing to prevent future pandemics is to make sure we have stronger global surveillance systems than we have now. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that our health monitoring systems have many limitations.

We know that the risk of epidemics of new and emerging diseases is increasing due to global changes in population and the interaction we have with the environment. To identify and control them before they have a massive impact like Covid-19 on health, the economy and society, we need global monitoring systems that allow these risks to be identified much faster than we identify Covid-19.

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“In the UK, we are sequencing half of the positive cases we have in the country”

You are very familiar with the UK Genome Sequencing Network. Is it one of the country’s strengths in epidemiological control of this epidemic?
Absolutely. Our genomic monitoring system is now at the heart of our activities. We sequence more or less than half of all the positive cases we have in the country and have shared nearly 1,250,000 genome sequences through happy [es la iniciativa internacional para compartir datos genómicos del SARS-CoV-2 y la gripe]. The United Kingdom ranks second, after the United States, in contributing images to international surveillance.

The reason sequencing is important is that we use this information to assess the presence of new variants, investigate whether they could lead to more serious clinical cases, more hospitalizations, or more deaths, and whether they have any effect on disease. The effectiveness of our diagnostic tests and vaccines.

Dr. Isabelle Oliver

“We have a program of neutralization studies in which each variant and the efficacy of vaccines against it are systematically and rapidly evaluated.”

We have a neutralization study program in which each variant and the efficacy of vaccines against it are systematically and rapidly evaluated. If we see that there are significant changes, we declare it a variable of concern and we monitor it to see how it is distributed among the population and try to contain it.

Do you fear that the Delta component, known as Delta Plus, may have an effect on the virus’ transmissibility or severity?
We know that the virus will continue to evolve and change. Currently, the delta variant corresponds to more than 98% of all cases in the UK. It is true that this boom is increasing in the country, but at the moment we have no evidence that it is more worrisome than the delta variant. We are continuing our investigations.

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“It is true that this boom [Delta Plus] It is increasing in the Uniod Kingdom, but at the moment we have no evidence that it is more worrisome than the delta variant »

It is therefore essential to have a platform to monitor the virus based on genetic sequencing in as many countries as possible.
Global genomic surveillance capacity and sharing of this information should be increased as quickly as possible. In the UK, we share all genomic sequences very quickly. Speed ​​is essential because we want to detect major changes in the virus as quickly as possible.

Isn’t this speed happening in other countries?
Not much, there is a lot of difference. Because we understand the importance of global surveillance, we provide assistance to other countries to develop their genetic surveillance capacity through New Variable Evaluation Platform (NVAP). We work with many countries and when this information is generated and shared, it will help us get a lot of global information about the virus.

“We are providing assistance to other countries to develop their genetic monitoring capacity through the New Variant Assessment Platform”

Do you think there are certain reservations about data sharing in some countries?
It is true that there are reservations, but I think all countries have an interest in sharing surveillance information. We all want vaccines that protect us from suffering from diseases like Covid-19 and developing new vaccines will require sharing this information.

Interoperability is also important, not only with platforms and systems that allow us to integrate information between countries, but also within each country. Much was said at this conference about the importance of the One Health concept, but integrating information from animal and human surveillance systems today is difficult in most countries.

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“It’s good to see here in Madrid that people are still wearing masks”

Why do you think such high rates of infection are being recorded in the UK and the rest of Europe, when we already have vaccines?
The situation varies slightly from country to country. Vaccines have been very effective, but we know that their protection wanes over time. In the UK, we are in the middle of a management program for the third vaccination dose and the studies we are doing at the agency show that the third dose has an impressive efficacy. It is important that we move forward with the third dose, not only in the UK, but also in other countries, as Spain does.

The changes we are seeing in some European countries are a reminder that the pandemic is far from over and the importance of all of us continuing to take appropriate measures to reduce the risk of transmission. Of course it is good to see here in Madrid that people are still wearing masks. Although we know that vaccines are very effective, especially against hospitalization and severe symptoms, we can still catch and transmit the virus. This is why we must continue to maintain the hygiene and social distancing measures that we know work. It is very important that everyone who gives us the vaccine accept this offer.

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