As the Covid-19 vaccine rolls out across the UK, Dr Julie Yates and her team have been working around the clock to make sure it’s delivered safely and effectively.
“We have been involved in planning for a vaccination programme from the summer onwards,” explains Dr Yates.
“There were no vaccines then, but we were ever hopeful that our colleagues who were developing them would eventually find a way through this for us, and we wanted to ensure we’d be ready as soon as possible after any vaccine was approved.
“This is probably the biggest vaccination programme we’ve ever launched and it’s been very fast and exciting. It’s based on tried-and-tested ways of doing things, which is always the best approach.”
People from all walks of life have signed up for clinical trials, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to meet the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. The public can be sure the vaccine is safe as it begins to be rolled out, starting with the elderly and those most at risk from complications.
“If people are in a high-risk category, the risks from the infection far outweigh any risks associated with any vaccines, so it’s really important that people look at it from that perspective,” says Dr Yates. “Nothing in life is 100 per cent safe or 100 per cent effective, and we are constantly keeping this under review to ensure that if there are any issues, we will pick those up as quickly as possible.
“I would encourage people to come forward for the vaccine. It is potentially the way out of where we are at the moment. There are measures around this to ensure that the processes are safe and effective, and that the programme is going to achieve the impacts we hope it will.
“It’s really lovely, particularly for the elderly members of our population who’ve been at home and may not have had much social contact. Everyone wants to see their family, their grandchildren, and the potential that this has to eventually enable that is really positive.”
But although the vaccine is becoming more widely available, Dr Yates stresses that we still need to be sticking to social distancing and hygiene measures.
“We just need to maintain that little bit more patience and be careful for a little bit longer,” she says. “Then we can really get to the point where we’re able to go back to normal, or as normal as possible.”
Why we'll be saying 'yes' to the vaccine
Dee Featherstone, 32, from Peterborough
“My family are a couple of hours’ drive away and they’re at high risk. I’d usually see them every couple of months, but this year I only saw them once, for a couple of days during the summer. I’d have the vaccine to help get a sense of normality back. Once it’s allowed, I’d love to visit them and give them a hug.”
Dylan Thomas, 62, from Llandudno
“In terms of my health, getting the vaccine would make a big difference. I finished radiotherapy for prostate cancer last November, now I’m waiting for a hip replacement. I’m looking forward to being out and about again and being sociable. Meeting up with the local boys at the pub on a Saturday, having a good laugh and a joke, that’s what I miss.”
Sally Giblin, 37, from London
“I’ll definitely be saying yes to having the vaccine. The more of us that get vaccinated, the more it helps us all. I’m also high risk as I have chronic lung damage, and I’m desperate to be able to visit my family back in Australia as soon as that’s possible.”
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