Welcome and Apologies

Members were welcomed to the meeting and provided introductions.

Apologies were noted.

Action Review

All actions were complete.

CIS Digital Update

The board were updated on the current status of the digital format of the programme.

At present, the ONS team in partnership with UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency), Oxford University and IQVIA have worked well to seamlessly deliver the digital collection model. The teams have overcome many logistical challenges like postal strikes, heatwaves and laboratory capacity issues. Even with these challenges, quality in our data and our analysis has been maintained whilst also achieving large cost savings.

The survey continues to play an important role to inform the nation about the pandemic. As a general population, there is less testing, meaning the survey is even more valuable and important.

It was noted that there is still a lot of uncertainty with what the programme will look like in the future. Work exploring multiplexing has begun and broader discussions on how we can help have commenced.

Analytical Update

A presentation was given describing some of the analyses led by the Chief Investigator using data from the COVID-19 Infection Survey.

A new strand of work is investigating changes in symptoms reported in COVID-19 negatives to try to provide an early warning of the potential for other respiratory viruses to cause substantial NHS pressures this winter.

Work is continuing to investigate associations between swab positivity and factors including prior antibody positivity, deprivation and rurality at a more granular geographical level than the regional level analyses published every week.

The level of protection from Covid-19 afforded by both previous vaccination and previous infection continues to be monitored closely, in particular levels of antibodies that are associated with greater or lesser protection against new infections with the currently dominant BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Waning of protection from vaccination appears to increase much faster for individuals who have not previously had COVID-19 before. Over the next few weeks, we will start to monitor the impact of the autumn COVID-19 boosters. However, we are only able to look at infection rates, not hospitalisations which are very rare in the survey.

The board agreed that keeping people out of hospitals is key and that there are many questions needing to be answered in relation to the relative protection from previous infection vs vaccination, particularly for children.

Any Other Business

Board members thanked Ruth Studley and the team for their hard work to ensure that the new digital operating model is a success. The Covid-19 Infection Surveillance Programme has had many changes but the survey continues to provide unique insight on infections and antibodies in the general population of the UK.

The board agreed that in order for the Covid-19 Infection Survey to maintain its high profile and obtain necessary support, it will need to clearly demonstrate added value.

The programme will continue to be guided by Sarah Walker (Chief Investigator) and her teams, and the ONS will work with task forces and policy making groups.

The exploratory work around multiplexing is a fascinating direction for the programme to move towards. The board concluded that this is a great opportunity for the survey to continue carrying on providing value.

The minutes for the last Advisory Board Meeting have been published on the Transparency & Governance page on the ONS website.

The next meeting will take place on in January 2023, exact date to be confirmed.

Members Present

  • David Spiegelhalter (Chair)

  • Maximillian Ayling

  • John Bell

  • Andrew Buckley

  • Michelle Cox

  • Fiona Dawe

  • Anne Johnson

  • John Newton

  • Dawid Pienaar

  • Ruth Studley

  • Sarah Walker

Secretariat

  • Henry Barker

  • Richard Long

Apologies

  • Sir Ian Diamond

  • Nick Taylor

  • Tina Clapham

  • Susan Hopkins

  • Thomas Waite

  • Monika Preuss