Fears should not halt NHS's stellar vaccine rollout

A nurse prepares the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen, the

The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine is the third vaccine to be approved for use in the UK. - Credit: PA

Cast your mind back to a year ago.

The country had been in lockdown for just over a fortnight. Every night, government press conferences announced the latest grim statistics.

Cases soared in the weeks following lockdown, while tests, ventilators and PPE remained in short supply. 

Nightingale hospitals were being constructed around the country, although thankfully they were only ever lightly used. 

Stephen Powis, the medical director of National Health Service England, told the country that a death toll of under 20,000 from the pandemic would be "a good result". 

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At the time, when there were fewer than 20,000 confirmed cases, this seemed a horrendous number.

Now, it serves to illustrate just how little the government and its advisors knew about what was to come.

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We were still getting to grips with the terrifying new world that we are now numb to.

Against this backdrop, work had begun on coronavirus vaccines but it was not clear when, or if, they would be ready for use.

In the 12 months since that first lockdown a lot has happened. 

Not all of it has been positive.

The Kent variant of coronavirus swept the country. Taking the pandemic to terrible new heights in early January, but around the same time a frankly miraculous vaccine rollout was beginning.

Last week three and a half doses of vaccine were administered every second in England.

This week a third vaccine has been certified for use in the UK.

Normally, it takes around 10 years for a medicine or vaccine to go from discovery into widespread use. 

And that's just the successful few. Many more fall by the wayside before they ever reach human trials, let alone making it to use for the masses. Some research scientists can have long careers without ever working on a drug that makes it to market.

The development of coronavirus vaccines was a scientific triumph and the NHS's rollout of the vaccine across the country has been nothing short of staggering. 

It has been a bright spot in the pandemic.

And the long bubbling concerns about the safety of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine should not take away from this.

The government has announced it will offer people under 30 an alternative to the Astra-Zeneca vaccine because 19 people have died from blood clots after receiving their first dose.

This equates to around a one in a million chance of death.

In the UK this is the same risk as travelling 17 miles by foot, 20 on a bicycle, six on a motorbike, or 250 in a car.

So far 20 million people in the UK have received their first dose of Astra-Zeneca and only 79 blood clots, of which the vast majority have survived.

The risk of developing blood clots from the injection is around four in a million.

Other commonly prescribed medicines carry far high risks of blood clots. For instance four in every 10,000 women who take the contraceptive develop blood clots, according to Dr Peter Arlett, the head of data analytics at the European Medicines Agency.

The risk of dying from coronavirus remains far higher than the risk of dying from the vaccine. And the only way to eradicate the risk from coronavirus is to get the vaccine.

For that reason, I'll take whatever vaccine I'm lucky to be offered.

But don't just take my word for it, even the sister of a 59-year-old man who died of a blood clot after receiving the vaccine urged people to get the jab.

Alison Astles said she was told by clinicians that they were 99.9% sure the clot on her brother Neil's lung was due to the vaccine

"Despite what has happened to Neil and the impact on our family, I still strongly believe that people should go ahead and have the vaccine," she said.

“If you’ve had one dose, go ahead and have your second. If you haven’t had your dose yet make sure that you do.

“Because, overall, we will save more lives by people having the vaccine than not.

“The risk of a clot is very, very small and my brother was extraordinarily unlucky.”

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