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Editorial: Vaccines remain best weapon in Covid fight

IT is a tragic reality that despite enormous efforts by public health authorities to encourage take-up of Covid jabs, it is sometimes only a human story of heartbreak and loss that provides the spur to finally take that important step.

One of those stories emerged yesterday when Co Down man Kevin McAllister told how his world was "shattered" following the death of his daughter Sammie-Jo Forde, less than a fortnight after that of her mother, Heather Maddern.

Both lost their lives to coronavirus and Mr McAllister revealed that both had not been vaccinated.

The women lived together and worked alongside each other in a caring role, visiting homes of the elderly in the community, yet had not taken up the offer to protect themselves.

Mr McAllister's appeal to listen to medical experts, made in the midst of terrible grief, has been applauded by the head of the north's vaccination programme, Patricia Donnelly.

In an interview with this paper today, she said "often the only thing that influences a person to come forward are stories like this when they can identify with the pain this family is going through".

Northern Ireland has travelled a huge distance in the unprecedented effort to inoculate the adult population from Covid-19, but the stubborn reluctance of some to come forward remains a major challenge.

Almost all over-50s, the group most at risk from the virus, have now been vaccinated and are due to receive booster injections as we enter the dangerous winter season.

However, through a combination of either complacency or misplaced distrust in medicine, more than a quarter of under-30s have yet to be jabbed.

Uptake is lower than in the Republic and the fact that death rates are also three times worse should be a source of enormous concern.

A further 10 coronavirus-linked deaths were recorded in the north yesterday, while more than 400 people were being treated in hospital with the virus.

Vaccines, along with mask-wearing, social distancing and good hand- hygiene, remain the most powerful weapons in our fight against this dreadful disease and as we seek to avoid the need to lock down once more to save lives.

For those who still believe they are not at risk - despite all medical evidence and the repeated appeals of politicians and public health officials - they need only listen to the courageous testimony of Mr McAllister.

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