BRENDAN WREN: The REALLY good news? The best is yet to come
The news is good, and it’s going to get better. As the Big Freeze recedes, the first glimmers of spring are bringing a series of reasons for us to feel truly optimistic about the future.
So it’s about time we gave ourselves a collective pat on the back.
The simple fact that 15million people – and counting – have now been vaccinated against Covid in just over two months is utterly extraordinary.
A vaccine is seen being administered in the back of a taxi in London. As the Big Freeze recedes, the first glimmers of spring are bringing a series of reasons for us to feel truly optimistic about the future
Even though I knew that Britain had the right infrastructure and expertise to achieve this, I sometimes doubted whether it was possible.
To anyone who understands how many challenges have had to be overcome, the result is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
From developing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and making tens of millions of doses, to investing in and ordering the Pfizer/BioNTech version and others that will come on stream in months – and then distributing and administering the jabs – it has been an unbelievable feat of collaboration.
Perhaps more than any other country in the world, Britain was perfectly positioned to do this.
It’s a testament to the strength of the NHS – which could draw on experience and data from its annual flu vaccination programme – and in particular our efficiency at creating and testing vaccines.
The simple fact that 15million people – and counting – have now been vaccinated against Covid in just over two months is utterly extraordinary, writes Brendan Wren (pictured)
We have a very good record with vaccines, especially for childhood diseases such as meningitis, while our network of hospitals and primary healthcare made what has been called ‘the greatest logistical challenge of our time’ possible.
And that’s not to forget the thousands of volunteers who have helped out at the mass vaccination centres.
But this is just the beginning of the good news. The possibility of a lifelong vaccine against Covid-19 now seems genuinely feasible. Scientists at Nottingham University believe their breakthrough ‘universal jab’, which targets the nucleocapsid [core of the virus] as well as the spike protein, could be ready for distribution next year.
If that is successful, it will bring a permanent end to the chaos and fear of the pandemic. We can expect such a vaccine to be effective against all variants because the core of the virus, unlike its outer ‘spike proteins’, mutates slowly.
It is reasonable to hope that a single shot, with no need for booster injections, will deliver immunity for the vast majority of people.
This is happening because British scientists are continuing to probe the virus for its weak spots.
And there’s more. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer are preparing trials for the vaccination of schoolchildren.
This is hugely important because, although the under-20s very rarely suffer serious illness with Covid, they are perhaps the greatest spreaders.
We know from general observations that, when the schools are reopened, a new wave of infections sweeps the country.
It’s only to be expected: the same is true with the flu virus, after all. If we can stop mass Covid outbreaks in schools, we can greatly diminish the potential for the disease to spread in the older population.
There are still cautionary notes, of course. A global problem requires a global solution and we need vaccines for all.
In the UK, an estimated 10 per cent of adults are hesitant about having the vaccine.
We don’t know whether this will be enough to hamper Britain achieving community or herd immunity – the point at which the virus stops spreading.
.To anyone who understands how many challenges have had to be overcome, the result is nothing less than awe-inspiring. The vaccine is seen being administered in a taxi in London
And no vaccine is infallible. At the moment, we believe one in ten people can still be infected after they have the jab.
Crucially, however, it appears that almost no one who is vaccinated goes on to develop a serious Covid illness.
Best of all, the development of these innovative medicines – what scientists call ‘platform technologies’ – will have profound implications for defeating other viruses (such as flu) and bacterial diseases.
And it is no longer science fiction to hope for a vaccine against cancer.
What we have achieved in the past few months has the potential to change the world of medicine forever. I’ve never felt more hopeful.
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