Vaccination is 90% effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19, according to research.
The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool.
Figures show the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90% effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab 91% effective in preventing deaths in people who have been double vaccinated but who have tested positive for coronavirus in the community.
The study is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, which is the most dominant form of Covid in the UK.
Researchers defined death from Covid as anyone who died within 28 days of a positive PCR test, or with Covid recorded as a cause of death on their death certificate.
The study analysed data from 5.4 million people in Scotland between April 1 and September 27 this year.
During this period, 115,000 people tested positive for Covid using a PCR test in the community, rather than in hospital, and there were 201 Covid-related deaths recorded.
No deaths have been recorded in those who have been double vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in Scotland, according to the data.
Researchers said it is therefore not possible to estimate this particular vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing Covid-related deaths.
The research team from the University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland analysed the dataset as part of the “EAVE II project” – Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of Covid-19 – which uses anonymised linked patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine rollout in real time.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and EAVE II study lead, said: “With the Delta variant now the dominant strain in many places worldwide and posing a higher risk of hospitalisation than previous variants seen in the UK, it is reassuring to see that vaccination offers such high protection from death very shortly after the second dose.
“If you still have not taken up your offer to be vaccinated, I would encourage you to do so based on the clear benefits it offers.”
Professor Chris Robertson, of the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland, said: “This study shows the value of carrying out analyses of routine healthcare data available in near real-time.
“Our findings are encouraging in showing that the vaccine remains an effective measure in protecting both ourselves and others from death from the most dominant variant of Covid-19. It is very important to validate these early results in other settings and with a longer follow-up study.”
To increase confidence in these early findings, researches said data gathering needs to be repeated in other countries and settings, and with longer follow-up time after full vaccination.
The team behind the study said due to the observational nature of the figures, data about vaccine effectiveness should be interpreted with caution and it is not possible to make a direct comparison between both vaccines.
Clarkston Disaster: ‘The shops were blown to bits’
50th anniversary of the day 22 people were killed when a gas explosion ripped through a row of shops.
Engineers were trying to find a gas leak when an explosion ripped through a row of shops at Clarkston Toll shortly before 3pm on October 21, 1971.
Twenty-two people – 20 women and two men – were killed as ten shops were blown out and vehicles plunged into the debris from a rooftop car park.
More than 100 others were hurt, including some who were rescued hours later as emergency workers and good samaritans dug desperately through the rubble.
Most of the victims were customers and shop workers, and even though many of them had already complained that week about a smell of gas, no-one was held responsible for the blast.
The victims of the Clarkston Disaster will be remembered during a 50th anniversary memorial service in the East Renfrewshire town on Thursday afternoon.
‘Shortly after that, it blew up’
Ted Flannigan’s life was saved by chance – he went into a restaurant in Clarkston for something to eat, but changed his mind and left the scene just minutes before the explosion.
“By almost a whim, I saved my own life,” the 75-year-old told STV News as he returned to the scene half a century later.
“I came out of a restaurant and drove up the road a little bit – shortly after that, it blew up.
“The roof had come down, crashed through the shops, the front and back of the shops were blown to bits and poor people who were either shopping or working lost their lives.
“As an engineer, I’ve seen various things in my life, but nothing quite as horrendous as this.
“I spent three nights working there, trying to do anything that I could do. People were all mucking in, everybody was trying to help.”
What happened in Clarkston?
Shopworkers had reported a smell of gas in the six-year-old shopping centre on Busby Road, but engineers were unable to find out where it was coming from.
Unbeknown to them, gas was actually leaking through a crack in a pipe three feet below the road surface into empty, unventilated cellars beneath the shops.
Engineers were still on the scene when the gas was ignited by a spark, causing an explosion so fierce that it killed two people who had just got off a bus – and injured passengers still in their seats.
A fatal accident inquiry reached its conclusions within just four months of the explosion, a jury deciding that no one was to blame.
Remembering the victims
A special 50th anniversary service will take place for victims’ families and survivors on Thursday at the memorial tree in the Clarkston Halls car park.
There will also be a minute’s silence across East Renfrewshire at 2.50pm.
Friends of a young man studying acting in Glasgow have appealed for help after he disappeared from his home ten days ago.
Timothy Chiwaula, 23, was last seen by friends in his house on Old Shettleston Road in the city’s east end around midnight on Sunday, October 10.
They said he does not have his phone, wallet or passport.
Fellow students and friends of Timothy’s from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said they miss and love him and were praying for his return.
“Timmy is funny, he’s always cracking a joke and so full of energy and always caring about the people around him,” one said.
“His smile is more than infectious, you can see instantly how full of life he is,” another who did not want to be identified said.
Timothy was last seen at around 8.45pm on Monday, October 11, on the road he lived on in the Shettleston/Greenfield area.
Friends said the “fiercely talented and resilient” performer was a “sweet” and “kind” person.
It is believed the BA Acting student is on foot and is known to frequent Glasgow city centre.
“We are all thinking so much of Tim, his family and loved ones,” a friend said, “If anybody has seen or heard anything at all about Timothy, please get in touch as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said: ““We share the concerns of Tim’s family and friends and urge him to get in touch and anyone with information they think might be helpful to contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number PS-20211014-0832.”
Timothy is described as 5ft7 with black dreadlocked hair.
He was possibly wearing the jacket as seen in the picture above, but Police Scotland said this could not be confirmed.
Young people and those from countries worst affected by climate change are facing issues with visas and vaccines jeopardising their involvement in what is billed as the “last best hope” for the world to tackle the crisis.
The number of accredited delegates has been significantly reduced and only those with official acknowledgement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can access the UK’s streamlined COP26 visa process.
Despite having accreditation from the youth constituency of UNFCCC, attendees to the Conference of Youth – an “essential part of the COP calendar” – have to use the standard visa application impacting on the ability of young people to attend the summit which is specifically for them.
“You are looking at an 18 to 20 page document with extensive and often confusing and conflicting questions, going into your family’s history and financial background,” said Blair Melville, a lawyer working with the Visa Support Service set up by the civil society COP26 Coalition.
The “genuine visitor requirement” demands evidence that the applicant has sufficient ties to their own country and sufficient reason to come to the UK – conditions that Mr Melville said were a struggle for young activists to satisfy.
“It is particularly difficult for these young activists who are more often than not single or not married, nor have children, don’t have jobs or have jobs at graduate or junior level or are doing volunteering in their communities.”
But even for those who have official UN accreditation, there have been obstacles.
Maria Aguilar, an associate lawyer with a Colombian NGO dedicated to women’s development, said the visa process has been a “nightmare”.
“It has been over two months I have been waiting for a visa,” she told STV News, “The whole problem is there is so much difficulty in getting through and communicating with somebody.”
Just two days before her flight is due to leave for the UK, her passport has still not been returned.
Ms Aguilar wants to come to Glasgow representing the Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad to help highlight the human rights impact of the climate crisis.
For the second year in a row, Colombia saw the highest number of killings of environmental defenders across the world with 65 murders in 2020.
“We are pushing as a region for more ambitious commitments and I hope Glasgow is the place that will deliver on it.”
Maria Aguilar, Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad
A report from Global Witness, a climate justice NGO, said widespread attacks on human rights defenders and community leaders across the country were worsened by the Covid pandemic.
Government lockdowns led to victims being targeted in their homes.
“It’s horrible and outrageous,” Ms Aguilar said, “It’s a matter of ethics and responsibility.
“We are pushing as a region for more ambitious commitments and I hope Glasgow is the place that will deliver on it.”
While entering the UK is easier for lots of countries in the Global North, this is not the case for many in the Global South where people are feeling the impact of climate change most acutely.
The COP26 Coalition said that this made it a struggle for community representatives and campaigners from these worse affected countries to come to Glasgow to have their voices heard.
“These visa arrangements are political,” Mr Melville said, “When you look at indigenous communities, working with groups across Latin America, Central Africa, and India, communities shunned largely by national governments, get even less representation.”
“They have a right to be there, these are international discussions about how to address a crisis which is affecting them right now.”
Then there are the issues affecting travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the availability of vaccines.
According to the Global Change Data Lab, 70 per cent of the population in high-income countries have received at least one dose compared to under three per cent in low-income countries.
The UK and Scottish Governments both amended legislation uniquely for COP26 recognising all Covid-19 vaccines and all vaccination programmes.
In partnership with the UN, the Westminster govbernment ran a programme to deliver vaccines to those who would not otherwise have been able to get one in their home country.
In September, with just a month to go until the summit, Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based energy and climate think tank Power Shift Africa, was still waiting for his first dose.
He said he did not feel safe attending the summit without a vaccine.
“How can participants represent themselves on equal footing when they aren’t in the room.”
The Home Office said it aimed to prioritise COP26 visa applications in line with travel dates and that it has been encouraging applicants to make use of the chargeable priority services available at centres at locations around the world.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have been working with delegates from around the world on their visa applications to ensure COP26 is inclusive and accessible. Visas are free for those who have been approved by the United Nations.
“We aim to process all visa applications within 15 working days – but those which are more complicated or when individuals do not provide the required information may take longer.”
Britain’s energy price cap should be changed to become more reflective of the cost for suppliers to buy energy from the wholesale market, the boss of one of Britain’s biggest suppliers has said.
The energy price cap is likely to cost the industry around £5bn over the next six months as customers fall off their fixed-term tariffs and are moved onto a cap-regulated tariff, Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson said.
It will likely bring down dozens more energy suppliers and leave just a handful, maybe five or six, businesses in the market, he said.
“The impact of that, if nothing else changes between now and then, we think you could see by that time the market return to five or six companies, and you could go all the way back to a new version of the Big Six,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s in the industry’s interest, it’s not in customers’ interest, and it’s not in the interest of the regulator either.”
At the moment, customers who are coming to the end of their one-year fixed-term energy deal with Scottish Power or another supplier are being rolled onto the price cap, currently set at £1277 for the average household.
But gas prices have increased a lot in recent months, meaning the cost for suppliers to buy that energy is now higher than the price they charge.
When a household rolls onto the default tariff an energy supplier will buy their energy a year in advance, something which will cost them around £1000 per customer.
Change is needed to the price cap, Anderson said. But there has been little movement from officials, despite many meetings.
He added: “Our view would be the price cap should be changed at least quarterly, perhaps more frequently depending on the market conditions.
“And the price cap has to catch up with the reality of the cost, and the supply cost of gas and electricity, more quickly than it currently does.”
Regulator Ofgem said: “Ofgem is working closely with Government and industry to ensure that customers remain protected. We have robust systems in place to ensure this.
“The price cap will remain in place this winter to protect millions of people from the sudden increases in global gas prices.
“We are also working with Government to ensure that we have a sustainable energy market that works for all customers.”
Panic alarms are being offered to East Lothian councillors following the death of MP Sir David Amess.
Security surrounding elected councillors is under review across the country with police offering one on one briefings to local members concerned about their safety.
East Lothian Council said all of its 22 councillors were being offered panic alarms, which were first introduced by the local authority after the death of MP Jo Cox five years ago.
The alarms carry a GPS tracking device so they can be found as soon as they activate them.
An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “It is imperative that elected representatives are able to engage with their constituents in as safe and accessible a way as possible.
“We recognise there is concern around the country about this matter. While many meetings and engagements continue to be carried out remotely at this time, we will be re-issuing guidance to elected members on personal safety while on-line briefings from Police Scotland will also be offered.
“Personal alarms continue to be available for elected members.”
The security review was sparked after Sir David was stabbed to death during a surgery with local constituents at his Southend ward last week.
His death raised questions about the safety of elected members as they meet with residents.
In Midlothian Council police issued advice to its 18 councillors over the weekend and a spokesperson said further briefings were being offered by Police Scotland.
At a virtual meeting of Midlothian’s cabinet this week, councillors stood for a minute’s silence in memory of Sir David.
Councillor Jim Muirhead, depute leader, said: “By all accounts Sir David was a decent and caring man who was well respected right across the political spectrum and who was attacked while making himself available to assist his constituents with their problems.
‘Extremely reckless’: Laser directed at Navy helicopter sparks probe
The chief pilot of the Royal Navy Merlin chopper reported the beam was directed at them during a low altitude training exercise.
A laser directed at a Royal Navy helicopter while it hovered off the coast “distracted the flight crew from their duties” and could have been “catastrophic”.
Police are hunting those involved in the “extremely reckless” incident which saw the Merlin chopper targetted at around 11.15pm on Monday, October 4.
The four personnel were conducting a training exercise, hovering at a low altitude over the sea off Stevenston in North Ayrshire.
The chief pilot reported a laser was pointed at the aircraft which temporarily distracted personnel from their duties, police said.
PC Mackie, of the Three Towns Locality Policing Team, said: “Use of a laser pen in this manner is extremely reckless and this incident could have been catastrophic for the aircraft and crew of four on board.
“We would like to remind people that matters such as this are taken very seriously by both Police Scotland and Scottish Courts Service.”
Police said the pilot noted the laser beam to have come from the Stevenston Point area.
PC Mackie urged anyone who may have any information about the incident to contact him at Saltcoats Police Officer by calling 101 and quoting incident 3910 of October 4.
Nicola Sturgeon has a “duty” to challenge the UK Government over its “staggeringly selfish” stance on providing coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations, campaigners have said.
Scottish members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance made the plea to the First Minister as global leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, prepare to take part in the G20 summit in Rome.
A new report for the organisation claims that of 1.8 billion Covid vaccine doses that have been promised by richer nations, only 261 million jabs – 14% – have actually been delivered.
The Dose of Reality report also said the UK Government had taken 500,000 doses from the Covax programme, a worldwide initiative aimed at ensuring fair access to vaccination.
Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland which is one of organisations in the alliance, accused the UK of “pilfering” jabs meant for poorer nations.
He said Sturgeon should raise the issue with her Westminster counterparts.
“Not only has the UK Government utterly failed to deliver on its vaccine promises to poor countries, it’s been pilfering one of the only supplies they have access to whilst also blocking efforts to scale up production,” Livingstone said.
“This isn’t just staggeringly selfish but it’s also spectacularly short-sighted and will cost lives around the world and potentially here in Scotland too.
“The First Minister has a duty to speak out and call for the UK Government to compel pharmaceutical companies to share their lifesaving vaccines and technology with the rest of the world.”
Sturgeon is also being urged to back a Holyrood motion from Labour’s Sarah Boyack which demands that the Prime Minister supports plans to waive intellectual property rules and insist the vaccine know-how and technology is shared through the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool – a move which could lead to a major increase in global vaccine production.
Liz Murray, head of campaigns at Global Justice Now Scotland, said: “With thousands of people dying around the world from Covid every day, it’s utterly shameful that even the pathetically small number of vaccines offered by rich countries haven’t been delivered.
“The First Minister must urge the UK Government to end its indefensible protection of the monopolies of pharmaceutical corporations which is artificially restricting the supply of vaccines – particularly to low-income countries.
“Grand plans to vaccinate the world will not be delivered by empty promises, but with the suspending of those monopolies.”
Sally Foster-Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: “Developing countries have been hit with an endless tide of inadequate gestures and broken promises from rich countries like the UK, which are simultaneously blocking the real solutions to vaccine inequality.
“Protecting lives – both here in Scotland and around the world – should be more important than protecting the outsized profits of pharmaceutical corporations who have already made billions from this crisis.”
Responding to the report, health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While Scotland has an impressive uptake of vaccination, we continue to engage with the UK Government and the Covid-19 Vaccine Taskforce to consider how we can help accelerate global vaccines.
“Our £10m international development fund has supported Covid-specific initiatives in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan and it will increase to £15m in April.
“Last year we gave £2.5m to Unicef to help vaccine distribution, rollout and online healthcare education; have helped send vital medical equipment and humanitarian support to other countries we are looking at how we might offer further support for vaccinations in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda as part of our wider international development programme.
“This is while the UK Government cuts aid – going back on a commitment to meet the UN target of 0.7% of the Gross National Income – a deplorable decision that is hitting the world’s poorest and most marginal communities at a time of great need.”