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The A to Z of how to create a moral panic

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Jonathan van Tam said a few weeks ago that, in this vaccine programme, we are 3-0 up, but we can’t get complacent. Well, in those European countries that have mitigated the effects of Covid, they look like blowing a five goal lead in spectacular fashion.

The controversy around the AstraZeneca vaccine is jaw dropping. Countries that have acted sensibly throughout the pandemic on the whole are now behaving bizarrely.

The evidence to suggest that the AZ vaccine causes blood clotting seems flimsy at best. It centres around a few cases, but I haven’t heard a single reliable authority say that incidence among people having the AZ vaccine are any higher than the general population.  There is a huge practical clinical trial going on in the UK – the biggest vaccination programme we’ve ever seen, and there have been no reports of higher incidence. But (as someone on twitter put it) we know the side effects of not taking the vaccine – breathlessness, long Covid, organ failure and death.

Of course, I am preaching to the converted here. But it is having a very real effect on GPs and patients. There is – perhaps understandable, if misplaced – anxiety around the vaccines. Some groups of patients – especially those from a minority ethnic background – don’t trust politicians when it comes to these programmes, for a variety of reasons.

To see other governments, who have until now behaved sensibly with regards to this pandemic, cast more doubt on the AZ vaccine could be enough to sway many into turning it down, which will cause a completely unnecessary barrier to increasing immunity in the population. Indeed, as a number of PCN leaders told us, this is already happening.

And the fact is, we won’t be able to get out of this pandemic without all countries being on the same page.

It’s not often that I defend this government, and especially not its handling of the pandemic. But in this case, I hope that their sensible approach to the vaccine programme prevails across governments, and allows us all to see out this game comfortably.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at