Covid: Maintaining public confidence in vaccine process is vital – Scotsman comment

Whether or not decision to delay the second dose of Covid vaccines by some eight weeks – in order to give the first one to people more quickly – is the correct medical one is not for The Scotsman to say.

A nurse holds a vial containing the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine (Picture: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images)
A nurse holds a vial containing the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine (Picture: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images)

According to a statement by the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, this will “maximise the impact of the vaccine programme in its primary aims of reducing mortality and hospitalisations and protecting the NHS and equivalent health services”.

However, as the British Medical Association has now pointed out, the change to the distribution of the vaccine has caused “anxiety” among patients and NHS staff as well as disruption to the appointments already made.

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Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland, said they had sought – and received – “strong reassurances from the Scottish government that there is clear evidence that this delay will not affect the level of protection these individuals will get against Covid”.

But it is hard to know what to make of such reassurances after vaccine-maker Pfizer warned earlier this week that there was “no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose [of its vaccine] is sustained after 21 days”. “… although partial protection from the vaccine appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine are required to provide the maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine efficacy of 95 per cent,” the company said.

Some may suspect that logistical problems in the production and administering of the vaccine are behind the change and that UK health officials are attempting to make the best of a difficult situation.

If that is the case, then our politicians need to be working night and day to find solutions to those problems. Former Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Tavish Scott’s idea to train furloughed hospitality sector staff to give vaccinations might come too late, but it is the kind of innovative, out-the-box thinking that is required.

In a public health crisis as serious and all-encompassing as Covid, maintaining public faith in the measures that are being taken is vital. The last thing we need, as we attempt to innoculate enough people to provide the herd immunity against the virus, is for them to lose confidence in the vaccines that should be our salvation.

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