Dr Mary Ramsay
IF we want the harmful effects of Covid consigned to the past, we need to keep calm and carry on vaccinating.
Over the past few weeks, every single day hundreds of thousands of you have rolled up your sleeves and had the Covid vaccine. It’s because of this effort we have set an exceptional pace for vaccinations.
But for understandable reasons, talk in recent days of mutations and new variants — each identified in a different location — has caused alarm.
And a great deal of attention is being given to early data on how the vaccines are responding to these variants.
But we shouldn’t let this new information distract us from the hard facts about the Covid-19 vaccines and just how effective they are against this disease.
In short, there is nothing in this new data that should dissuade you from getting the Oxford vaccine or any other.
The first and most important reason is that every approved vaccine is highly likely to give strong protection against the risk of severe disease and death.
This is likely to be true regardless of the variant.
These are the outcomes that matter most and are what will prevent people from ending up in hospital. This should be at the front of our minds.
The second key point is that the South African variant is not the dominant one in the UK.
We currently have just 147 cases of this variant, each of which has been rapidly identified, tracked to a postcode and tackled head-on by our surge testing programme.
We are taking every possible step to drive down that variant in the UK and make sure it does not get a chance to become established here.
The third thing to remember is our vital weapon in the fight against variants: Genomics.
This is a scientific tool we use to track the changes and mutations in an infectious disease.
UK scientists are world leaders in the field.
By tracking how the virus evolves, we are using genomics to detect and respond to its every move.
We know that the smallest mutation could have big consequences for how the virus can spread.
But we still expect the vaccines to work against serious disease.
And as new variants emerge, scientists can develop newer generations of vaccines, similar to the work done every year on the flu.
None of this is cause for complacency.
We must stay alert to the emerging evidence.
There are still 30,000 people in UK hospitals battling the virus and the NHS is facing acute pressure.
But be in no doubt, vaccines are the way out of this pandemic.
By getting the vaccine, we will all be doing our bit.