After the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK, the mood among health professionals began at last to lighten: here was the first sign that Covid-19 could be, if not conquered, at least made far less deadly. Now has come regulatory approval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, a far less expensive, more easily transported and stored, and hopefully more widely available, treatment. But here a problem enters.
Worse, the chief decision maker will be Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who may mean well, but like so many who serve in the cabinet of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, has been selected on the basis of loyalty first, and ability somewhat later. And what the Guardian reported yesterday has raised concerns.
Although one dose of the Oxford vaccine gives some protection, the Science Media Centre has observed “Not surprisingly, only the two standard dose regimen has been approved by the MHRA - with a variable interval (4-12 weeks apart) between the first and second dose”. So the second shot has to come before 12 weeks have passed since the first one.
There is more. “There are no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days”. It is possible that protection from Covid-19 is sustained, but then again, it is also possible that it is not. Hancock has no evidence to back up his volte face.
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of concerned observers have picked up on this news, which, combined with knowledge of the Government’s shambolic response to the pandemic, is rapidly eroding trust when and where it is needed most.
The public needs to be confident that the Government can, and will, deliver vaccination effectively. Right now, they are not. Time for Hancock to not be half hearted.