Leading article

Patience needed as vaccine rollout gathers pace

Although the lockdown has been extended to at least April 1 and any relaxation will be a gradual process, there are encouraging signs that the vaccination programme will provide a way out of the Covid nightmare.

Millions of people in the UK have received a first dose over the past two months, allowing scientists to make a 'real world' assessment of how the vaccines are working.

The results of research by Public Health Scotland has been enormously positive. It found that at four weeks after the first dose, hospital admissions were reduced by 85 per cent for the Pfizer jab and 94 per cent for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh said both vaccines were working 'spectacularly' and provide great reason to be optimistic for the future.

Data coming in from other places where there has been large scale inoculation is also heartening, with the caveat that the vaccine does not provide 100 per cent protection.

However, the research to date is clearly reassuring and will hopefully ensure that as many people as possible take up the offer of a jab.

In Northern Ireland, the vaccination rollout has been efficiently managed with 458,000 first doses administered so far.

The Department of Health has confirmed that the programme is ahead of schedule and it is clear the authorities are moving quickly through the priority groups.

Last week, Robin Swann announced that carers aged over 18 could access a jab, a decision that has led to claims that the system could be abused.

The head of the vaccination programme, Patricia Donnelly, has emphasised that only those who are the main carer for an elderly person should come forward and it is important that people follow the advice that is being given.

She also highlighted the issue of people making multiple bookings for jabs and not cancelling times that are not needed, leaving gaps in the system.

There is no doubt that a major push is on to vaccinate everyone as soon as possible.

From early April, the drive to inoculate the entire adult population will be significantly ramped up with the addition of a mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

So patience is required but there is every reason to be positive about the speed and effectiveness of the vaccine campaign.

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Leading article