In this personal blog, College President Professor Jackie Taylor writes on the coronavirus vaccine and the proposed relaxation of lockdown rules in the UK over the Christmas period.
At the top of my Christmas wish list this year was an effective Coronavirus Vaccine (yes – perhaps I do need to get out more, but you will see the irony in that statement!). My wish has been granted, and we have one vaccine with regulatory approval, and a second undergoing that process. The vaccination programme is now rolling out, prioritizing the most vulnerable people in our communities. I feel particularly fortunate that, as a patient facing clinician (of a certain age) I have also received my first dose of the vaccine. I accepted the offer of vaccination in a heartbeat. As a normally quite rational person, I developed a hugely irrational anxiety that I would contract Covid before I could be vaccinated. Perhaps that is just a reflection of the chronic, lower level of anxiety that we have all been living with and trying to stifle for the past nine months.
The full benefits of vaccinating the population won’t be realized until next year, and we face a few very busy months of winter pressures, with the superadded challenge of ongoing Covid admissions to hospitals and ITUs, and a likely further surge of cases in January. We are weary, and we are worried that services will be hugely challenged early in the New Year. Vaccination is not a carte blanche to allow reckless or even “normal” behaviour. Social distancing measures, “FACTS” or “hands, face space” are every bit as important now as they have ever been.
The Twelve days of Christmas this year have become the Five days of relaxation of restrictions for Christmas. I completely understand how awful social isolation has been for some people, and the need to have the possibility of human interaction over this important time. But we know that the increased mixing of households will result in increased transmission of this most unforgiving of viruses, increased numbers of hospitalisations and potentially more deaths from Coronavirus. The relaxation of restrictions is most definitely not a license to go forth and do as you please. So please be very thoughtful and considerate when making your plans this year. Ask yourself, is it really essential to meet with other households? Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. We may not get a White Christmas this year, but we could have a quiet one- just for one year.
We are all very worried about the ability of our GP and hospital services to cope with a significant rise of cases in January. Please think carefully about what you do, and how you can protect the NHS and prevent it from being overwhelmed.
It will soon be the winter solstice in the UK , and the shortest, darkest day. I’m always relieved when that day is over, as it means longer, lighter days are coming. There is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel: let’s #stickwithit and 2021 will be a much more hopeful year.