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A race between the pandemic and vaccination… July 22, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Been checking out the numbers vaccinated in Ireland and the UK this week. The gap between the two is rather small. On Tuesday in the UK 88% of the population had received their first dose while 68.8% had received their second. Meanwhile in the ROI 74.40% had received their first dose and 60.80% had received their second. Yesterday the figures had increased in the latter context to 78.4% receiving one dose and 64.8% receiving two – the UK figures hadn’t updated much – 88.1% first, 69.1% two – when I looked last. That’s quite some increase, isn’t it? In both instances this is adults over the age of 18. From a slow start the ROI (and by extension presumably the EU) has, if not quite caught up, certainly moved within less than 10% with regard to second doses. My own rule of thumb has been once the figure of 80-85% of adults are fully vaccinated then matters can proceed further in terms of reopening (though there are those who argue that the under-18 cohort is crucial to that process too. At this rate that’s very near.

Andrew Flood noted yesterday that the ROI looks likely to catch up with NI sometime next week. Again, not bad going.

It cannot be overstated how huge an impact the vaccines have had. They’ve cut mortality and even serious illness to an unimaginably lower level than any of us might have anticipated. Last year I was sceptical we might have vaccines. That they are so effective is heartening.

Yet, as noted by RTÉ, they’re not foolproof and nor do they confer invincibility upon those who are vaccinated. People, fully vaccinated people, will still catch Covid in some instances. And it remains key to adhere to public safety measures. Okay, that’s preaching to the converted here, but crocodileshoes comment yesterday rings very very true:

Not a great poll size, but of the 9 people on the lower deck of the 7a bus last Thursday, 5 weren’t wearing masks. 5 separate people, each middle-aged, one man and four women. Mentioned this to my sister-in-law, a receptionist in a healthcare facility: she says it’s happening more and more – the vaccinated turning up without masks, thinking they’re safe enough now.

It’s why I and most of us I’m guessing are still being careful. Not for ourselves but for a broader societal good, and with no small self-interest either – and rightly so, in terms of wanting to see matters revert as quickly as possible back to whatever normal is going to look like. Said it before, the idea of retreating back to restrictions is an appalling one. But there are other appalling possibilities. I was talking to a local councillor this week whose main concern was that schools might not be able to reopen in September because of the level of the virus circulating in the society come then. That’s not an implausible outcome. But it is one that should be avoided at all costs – because it’s not just schools and those who attend and work their but also the broader society – those who are unvaccinated, or unable to be vaccinated or who are more vulnerable for one reason or another. 

In fairness to the government the approach – bar the disaster of Christmas, has been, for the most part efficient in terms of the roll-out and distribution of vaccines, more constrained than many of us, even if we would have preferred a Zero-Covid approach adopted, would have believed and perhaps slightly less in thrall to lobbyists. That said where matters go in the next few weeks could turn that around.

Meanwhile, and in a way related to that vaccine escape is a live issue. As RTÉ notes:

The possibility of ‘vaccine escape’ in the future is already of concern. This would be the emergence of a variant of Covid-19 against which approved vaccines offer reduced or minimal protection.

The Delta variant is now the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Ireland and the driver of a large increase in case numbers in recent weeks. However, recent studies have suggested that the existing vaccines are effective against Delta.

That’s remarkable too. But it’s not necessarily going to hold into the future. And the only protection, the only real protection, is vaccination now in order to build the defences for whatever comes next – which with a bit of luck will not entail returning to lockdowns. 

Just on that, there then becomes a real possibility of that much misused line, living with Covid. It moves from too lethal to be allowed to circulate to being containable.

It is incredibly frustrating to be in this race and to see the prize within grasp of full adult vaccination – or as full as is humanly possible (and by the by vaccine hesitancy and scepticism from all reports seems to be much lower than was feared amongst younger cohorts) with a view to broader reopening and the possibility of putting much of the past eighteen months with its burden of very real pain and suffering for many people – and in many different ways – behind us to some degree at least.

Close. Very close. 

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