Leading article

Get jabbed and save lives

As the death toll mounts in this latest coronavirus surge, a major push is on today and tomorrow to get more people vaccinated.

The 'Big Jab Weekend', as it is being styled, is being seen as an important element in the drive to increase vaccination numbers. Chief scientific officer Professor Ian Young has described it as 'critical'.

After a hugely successful rollout programme in the first half of the year, there is now deep concern at the slowdown in numbers coming forward to be jabbed.

Northern Ireland is now lagging behind Britain and the Republic in terms of vaccination numbers.

Unfortunately, we are well ahead in terms of infection rates.

For weeks we have had stubbornly high levels of cases. Yesterday Northern Ireland reported 2,397 positive tests - the highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day since the pandemic began.

We are also seeing hundreds of people so ill they need to be admitted to hospital and, sadly, many patients losing their lives.

So far this month, there have been 93 deaths. There were 39 in July and two in June.

These are dreadful figures and we have to remember that each one represents a life lost, a family devastated.

The sobering warning from Prof Young is that we have not yet reached the peak of deaths, so we face more grim news in the weeks ahead.

The message from the experts is that increasing the number of vaccinations will save lives.

They want to see our current level of just over 85 per cent rise to 90 per cent. Another five per cent would see hospital admissions cut by half.

According to chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride, five per cent is 52,000 people, a target that is eminently achievable.

This weekend, anyone who has not yet been jabbed has the opportunity to turn up at mass vaccination centres at Belfast, Derry, Omagh, Ballymena, Craigavon and Enniskillen. There are also mobile clinics throughout the north and community pharmacies will continue to offer jabs.

The stark reality is that more of us getting vaccinated will prevent lives being lost to this pernicious disease.

If someone has been reluctant for any reason, the alarming figures of recent days should act as a spur to getting jabbed.

The relaxation of restrictions is taken by many as permission to drop their guard.

But the widespread transmission of Covid in the community shows we must continue to protect ourselves and others through mask wearing and social distancing.

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Leading article