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Today’s vaccine rollout starts a new chapter for the NHS

Last week, we in the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use. And today, it’s being rolled out from numerous hospitals in UK.

Another first for the NHS – this morning saw 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan become the first in the world to receive the Covid vaccine without being in a trial. She did so at University Hospital Coventry, from Filipino nurse May Parsons, marking the start of the rollout of the vaccine to older people and NHS and care home staff across the UK.

How wonderful that this historic global moment happened in our NHS.

More than 750,000 volunteers, recruited in April, are being called upon to deliver the jabs, as well as deal with any adverse effects as the NHS prepares dozens of mass vaccination centres for the future.

It’s a game-changer in fight against Covid, and the best chance for the UK to get back to some semblance of normality amid the pandemic which has killed nearly 60,000 people in this country alone, and upended the economy.

The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective, working well in all the tested groups, irrespective of age, sex, race or country they lived in.

Its safety is considered ‘similar to other vaccines’, with most side effects ‘mild’ and usually only lasting for a day or two.

We know nothing yet about the severity of cases that were seen in the trial, or whether infection or infectiousness was prevented.

Of course, since this vaccine needs to be stored at -70/80 degrees, there are logistical problems. This is why the military and large sites to handle high volumes of people are needed.

As GPs, we are experts in mass vaccinations, having routinely vaccinated the population for conditions including flu, measles, mumps, rubella, diheria, and tetanus.

The World Health Organisation estimates that vaccination averts two to three million deaths per year, in all age groups, and the practice of immunisation dates back hundreds of years.

Opposition to vaccination, from a wide array of critics, has existed since the earliest vaccination campaigns. However, it’s worth remembering now more than ever how widely accepted it is that the benefits of preventing serious illness and death from infectious diseases greatly outweigh the risks of rare serious adverse effects following immunisation .

The incompetence seen to fight Covid is disgraceful, so it really is good to see that some things can be done if you give it to the scientists, researchers and the NHS family who know what they’re doing!

All in all, today’s rollout is a big moment not just for the UK, but for the world. The entire planet is watching us – an opportunity to somewhat atone the sins of last ten months.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is a retired GP in Tameside