BLOG: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are not quite there yet’

Liverpool’s Director of Public Health Matthew Ashton writes about the rollout of the Covid 19 vaccine…

Liverpool has a track record of being in the vanguard when it comes to medical milestones.

In 1944 penicillin was first used at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to save the life of a child with pneumonia, and the city was also one of the first to introduce a population screening programme for tuberculosis in 1959.

Continuing this tradition, last week our hospitals were among the first to give people the first of the new Covid-19 vaccines. This week, our GP surgeries will start to roll It out to priority groups, including over 80s and health and social care workers. And, before Christmas, residents and staff in our care homes will also benefit.

And as we all know by now, the vaccine offers us all individually and collectively the best long term route out of the pandemic, so this is something we all need to embrace wholeheartedly!

A nurse at Aintree University Hospital with the Covid-19 vaccine

Although the vaccine has been approved as being very safe by the independent medical regulator, precautions are being taken to allow more evidence to be gathered before it is given to some groups, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is just through an abundance of caution, as pregnant women were not routinely included in the clinical trials.

You are asked to tell staff before you are vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), and you should not have the vaccine if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction to medicines, vaccines or food. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products or egg and is therefore suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and is halal.

Each person needs two doses, three weeks apart, and it takes another few weeks for the maximum level of immunity to be reached. This means that even those people who have already had the vaccine won’t be protected until towards the end of January.

It will take a lot longer before we have enough immunity in the bank, and therefore unfortunately we are some way off a position where we will be able to look at relaxing the ‘hands face space’ rules we have all been abiding by since March.

In addition, it is not yet clear whether or not people who have had the vaccine can still spread Covid-19, even though they are protected themselves.

All of this means – in my view – that we will have to reach a position where the majority of the population have had it before we can truly go back to something approaching normal life.

Don’t get me wrong, the vaccine is a massive breakthrough, and there is light at the end of the tunnel – but we are not quite there yet and must continue to act responsibly to keep each other safe for the foreseeable future.

Liverpool Waterfront