The body of research investigating the effects of Coronavirus infection on pregnancy is growing. What is the available evidence? How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women and their babies? Is the virus transmitted between mothers and babies? Are some women and babies at greater risk than others?
COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started in the UK on 8 December 2020. Results from Phase 3 clinical trials have been published for all the vaccines approved for use in the UK. But how does the performance of vaccines under real world conditions differ from clinical trial results? When will we able to observe the impacts of the COVID-19 vaccination programme?
What does it mean to reformulate food and drinks? How does it support healthier diets and lead to public health benefits? This POSTnote gives an overview of the most recent food and drink reformulation policies in the UK, the evidence on public health benefits and the effectiveness of different policies. It also explores challenges and opportunities for reformulation and describes some of the complementary approaches to improve public health.
The Government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan, relies on three things to provide the UK with a “route back to normality”: vaccines, treatments and testing. In addition to laboratory-based tests, lateral flow tests are being used for rapid testing in communities and workplaces. What are the latest data on how good these tests are? What are the pros and cons of using them for mass testing?
In recent months several new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been detected in various countries around the world. This article examines how these variants arise, how genetic variation might affect the characteristics of the virus, and the possible impact that these new variants might have on the course of the pandemic.
There are various applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare, such as helping clinicians to make decisions, monitoring patient health, and automating routine administrative tasks. This POSTnote gives an overview of these uses, and their potential impacts on the cost and quality of healthcare, and on the workforce. It summarises the challenges to wider adoption of AI in healthcare, including those relating to safety, privacy, data-sharing, trust, accountability and health inequalities. It also outlines some of the regulations relevant to AI, and how these may change. As healthcare is a devolved issue, policies on healthcare AI differ across the UK. This POSTnote focusses on regulations and policies relevant to England.
The rapid production of safe, effective and consistent vaccines is essential for supporting COVID-19 immunisation programmes in the UK and globally. However, manufacturing vaccines is challenging for various reasons that include the complex processes involved, the specialist knowledge and experience required, and the natural variability of the biological materials and systems used. Urgent demand is leading to manufacturers and governments taking on significant financial risks in order to speed up production. What is the UK Government doing to accelerate vaccine manufacture? How are vaccines made? Why is manufacturing vaccines at large scales so challenging?
Large-scale woodland creation is being promoted internationally to mitigate climate change. It can also supply other benefits, such as improving biodiversity, air and water quality. This POSTnote summarises key factors influencing how much carbon is taken up by woodland, the different objectives of woodland creation, constraints to increasing UK tree cover and different finance options.
The digital divide is the gap between people in society who have full access to digital technologies (such as the internet and computers) and those who do not. Concerns about the digital divide have been particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as the internet and digital devices have played an important role in allowing people to access services, attend medical appointments and stay in touch with friends and family. What impact has the digital divide had on children and adults in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and what has been done to tackle it?
As mass immunisation against COVID-19 begins in the UK and elsewhere, the safety of the recently approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being closely monitored. How is vaccine safety measured and what happens when side effects are found?
Since early 2020, the UK has been carrying out wastewater monitoring for COVID-19. Wastewater samples are collected regularly across the country and analysed for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Wastewater monitoring is part of monitoring systems to detect new COVID-19 outbreaks and support test and trace approaches. How can SARS-CoV-2 be detected in wastewater? How can wastewater monitoring be used as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak? And how are wastewater monitoring programmes being used across the UK and worldwide?
Devices with screens include game consoles, laptops and televisions. Screen use refers to activities undertaken on such devices and the time spent on them. Children’s screen use has increased over the past decade. Policy-makers and parents have expressed concerns about possible effects of screen use on children/young people’s development and health. This POSTnote provides an overview of how children/young people use screens, the opportunities and risks of this use, evidence on the possible effects on health and development, and evidence on ways to support healthy screen use.
With several potential vaccines approaching the end of clinical trials, a new focus is how they will be approved for general use. How does this process work? Who will receive the first COVID-19 vaccines when they become available in the UK? What are public attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK?
Media headlines have predicted an increase in mental ill health among NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. This POSTnote gives an overview of the scale and quality of current evidence on the mental health and well-being of NHS staff before and during the pandemic. It also discusses how staff are supported and the options for introducing other effective interventions as the pandemic continues.
The COVID-19 Winter Plan, published 23 November, relies on three factors to provide the UK with a “route back to normality”: vaccines, treatments and testing. In addition to PCR testing, lateral flow devices are now being rolled out across England and Wales for the rapid testing of certain occupational groups, community testing and as an alternative to self-isolation following exposure to the virus. How well validated have these tests been? Are they accurate enough for their proposed purposes? And how have they performed to date in mass testing trials?