It’s sad that we end this darkest of years in Tier 3 restrictions after so many months of huge personal sacrifice and disruption to our way of life.
So many in our community will be spending their first Christmas without a loved one, lost to the coronavirus before their time. My thoughts and prayers are with those families and of course to everyone whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic.
I know some of you are worried about taking the vaccine. Some have asked how could a safe vaccine be created so quickly?
But scientists have been working on a Coronavirus vaccine for years – they were not starting from scratch. And this year, science, industry and governments around the world focussed on one endeavour.
Billions have been invested in the research and resources needed and scientists worked around the clock to create the vaccines we’ve all heard about. Britain’s regulator managed to approve the vaccine first because it examined the data along the way.
That’s how a process that might take a decade, took just 18 months. But no corners were cut in designing, testing and manufacturing. This is an example of what can be achieved when the world works together, and a bit of luck!
One vaccine, Pfizer/BioNTech, has been approved as safe for use for all but two categories, a small group, such as pregnant women and those with extreme allergies.
Others are expected to follow including the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine. This, if and when passed for safe use, will be the real game-changer for the UK, as it’s much easier to store, and to transport.
Some are concerned about the potential long-term effects of taking a new vaccine. But long- term adverse effects from vaccines are extremely rare, and vaccine developers have said that any adverse responses show up very quickly – that’s why they were able to almost immediately identify that those with extreme allergies would not be suitable to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Covid-19 is a disease that has killed over 65,000 people in the UK alone and debilitated many thousands of others. So many are now living with longer term conditions such as extreme fatigue, respiratory problems and organ failure.
This illness has had a devastating effect on public health, the economy and the NHS this year.
The only way for us to return to anywhere near normal life is for us to reach a point of community immunity – and a vaccine delivered to the highest possible number of people is how we get to that point.
I don’t believe that any vaccine should be mandatory. It must be a choice, but an informed choice. I am concerned about the levels of misinformation circulating about the vaccine, particularly on social media – and that this is frightening people and deterring them from making a decision that could save their life or that of a loved one. Please only share information from trusted sources.
And when you are offered the vaccine, please take up the offer – I know I will. If you’re worried, contact my office and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
I know that Bedford Borough Council and colleagues in Health are working hard to ensure that vaccines are distributed as quickly as possible.
They expect the first vaccines to be available in Bedford and Kempston very early in the New Year, and I understand that plans for rolling out at scale are at an advanced stage.
Your GP will contact you when it is time to book in for your vaccine, so please be a little patient, but I will share details soon as I have them.