The promise of vaccination has been used, not to free us, but to keep us locked up for longer.
Margaret Keenan, 90, will be the answer to a pub-quiz question for years to come: Who was the first person in the UK to be vaccinated against Covid-19? The answer to the question ‘Who was the second person in the UK to be vaccinated against Covid-19?’ it could be too. (Answer: 81 year old man from Warwickshire named William Shakespeare – count puntastic tweets).
An emotional Matt Hancock apparently boiled down to, er, rubbing his eyes Good morning Great Britain for the sight of Shakespeare getting his jab on Tuesday. He has promised that once the groups most likely to develop serious or fatal illness from Covid-19 have been vaccinated, the seemingly endless restrictions could finally be eased and we could return to a situation where people could take personal responsibility for your own risk.
Few, if any, politicians are willing to tolerate the idea of allowing us to take that risk right now, preferring to chain society, with all the damage it is doing. Just one example was the news this week that more than 160,000 people have been waiting for “routine” hospital care on the NHS for a year. That compares with just 1,613 waiting in February. The effects of turning the NHS into the National Covid Service will be felt for years to come, even if routine care is approaching pre-pandemic levels.
In Scotland, next summer’s school exams have been canceled, following the precedent set in Wales. Students simply waste too much time in school to be adequately prepared. How much longer before England also admit defeat? Schools may be ‘open’, but precautions mean that a relatively small number of positive tests can result in year-round groups being sent home.
While vaccines are wonderful news, the problem is that it will be months before we have the green light to return to something that is close to normal.
For starters, there is the simple logistical problem of vaccinating millions of people. It doesn’t help that the only vaccine currently available is the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which should be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius for short periods. Since freezers capable of reaching that temperature are not as common, the deployment faces some particular logistical headaches.
There have also been production problems. Pfizer has said that it will now only be able to deliver five million doses to the UK by Christmas after rejecting a batch of chemicals. Since each recipient needs two doses, that means only 2.5 million people can get vaccinated in the next few weeks. There have also been reports from Russia of difficulties in increasing production of the Sputnik V vaccine, which is further complicated by the fact that they are actually two slightly different vaccines.
The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine has its own problems – the trial data is a mess. Not enough people have yet been recruited, different doses were given to one group, and the results are less impressive than for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Since high hopes were placed on the AstraZeneca vaccine, it is cheaper and much easier to store and transport, a major increase in vaccination speed could be further delayed.
In terms of the time scale, another factor is that the two doses of the different vaccines should be three to four weeks apart, and complete immunity is achieved about a week after the second dose. Even if 10 million people – seniors first, along with social care workers, then health workers and younger and younger groups of people – could get their first dose by the end of February, we will be early April before that all those people are considered. as fully protected.
And just to put the cherry on top of all these problems, there is also the issue of vaccinations. It is one thing to offer the vaccine and another is for people to agree to receive it. Fortunately, given the way Covid has been in the headlines throughout the year, it means that a concern affecting other vaccine programs, if vaccination is necessary, should be less of an issue. However, a survey released this week suggests that only 72 percent of people are willing to get vaccinated at this time. (To be clear, I’ll go straight to my GP as soon as I get a chance to have it.)
In short, while there has been a lot of excitement for the first vaccines this week, we are still facing a long winter of restrictions on our lives. After the blocking of “firewalls” in Wales, the number of cases is already increasing again, and it seems that it is also increasing in London, according to the ONS Infection Survey. Seasonal illnesses like Covid-19 tend to fade as warmer weather arrives, so it could be spring, rather than the vaccine, that really has a substantial impact on the epidemic and restriction levels. that we face.
As I warned last month, the promise of vaccination has been used, not to free us, but to keep us locked up longer. ‘Don’t screw it up now!’ They tell us. What we need is an injection of freedom in the way we handle this virus.
Rob lyons is a spiked columnist.
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