Tomorrow, when the first Briton is injected with a vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, the UK will experience an exceptional moment in its dogged battle against the destruction caused by Covid-19. An remarkable feat, a tribute to world-class British science and a highly productive pharmaceutical industry, is the fact that this vaccine comes within a year of the outbreak of a disease that has since devastated the world.
More significantly, at just the right time, the vaccine arrived. The newly identified version of Covid-19 is threatening to spread across the nation and wreak havoc on our beleaguered healthcare system.
So it’s right to celebrate the launch of the vaccine from AstraZeneca, but we should also be aware of the pitfalls that await us. From its original, woefully delayed response to the virus, to the chaotic distribution of PPE equipment for health staff, to the woeful introduction of testing and monitoring programs, to the confounding U-turns in lockdown steps, we are led by a government which has bungled so much in the Covid response. To handle the swift administration of the vaccine to millions of British people, we need drive and competence. The government has not demonstrated these attributes in abundance so far. On the other hand, early reports indicate that the vaccine program has been well handled.
In choosing vaccines to be procured, wise choices were made. The early introduction was well handled, and there is evidence that the selection of early recipients was carefully considered. Similarly, the decision to postpone the second dose administration to increase the amount of initial vaccines shows that the scientists and doctors advising the government reacted to the rapidly evolving form of the spread of the virus. The decision was not without criticism and definitely caused some concern among older and more vulnerable people and their caregivers. In a few days, they planned to receive a second dose, but now they have to wait for weeks.
The last-minute rescheduling of thousands of appointments adds to the logistical pressure on clinics and practices already busy, but chief medical officers accept that, both ethically and technically, this is the right step.
Those getting the first dose of the vaccine against Covid 19 are still well covered.
Delaying a booster shot can also cause immunity that is longer-lasting. This, in essence, enables millions of individuals to be vaccinated against a virus that is threatening to spread exponentially in the UK in the short term.
Any option would mean that individuals who should have been rescued would face death. Miracles have been performed by scientists, physicians and nurses. Now, leaders and administrators must take advantage of the advantage they have been given and put an end to the suffering brought upon us by this awful virus.
And in a way that reassures the public that redemption is at hand, they must do so.
Last week, Boris Johnson was asked how many vaccine doses would be made available in the coming weeks, but he said that accurate responses would not be helpful. There could be nothing farther from the facts. The nation wants to know – and exactly – how many doses are to be given week after week. Is it going to be a million? If so, we’re going to have to wait a long time before the lockdown ends. Or is it going to be 2 million weekly doses? A fun summer will be a more likely prospect in that situation. (It’s also not that hard to vaccinate two million people a week. We vaccinate at a similar pace for influenza every winter). A lot depends on these figures, and whether we have the supply chain to match the efforts of our scientists and physicians, the UK now needs to know.
Our hopes of ending the suffering rest on having an accurate breakdown of these figures, to put it bluntly.