Top four categories vaccinated by mid Feb “if things go well”

Image above: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that Britain is re-entering national lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday 4 January that as we go into the third national lockdown, there is one key difference compared to last year. We now have effective vaccines. He described as a “realistic expectation” that by the middle of February, “if things go well” the first vaccine dose will have been offered to everyone in the four top vaccine groups.

These are: residents in care homes – both older adults and their carers, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is considered ‘extremely vulnerable’.

Professor Jeremy Levy is a kidney doctor at a London hospital, who got his jab on Monday. Though he’s a consultant nephrologist, usually concerned with kidney transplants, he’s been at the frontline of treating Covid patients since the beginning of the pandemic. He’s written a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar on his experiences and why in his view it is imperative for everyone who’s offered the vaccine to take the opportunity.

Guest blog by Professor Jeremy Levy

I am thankful, delighted and feel privileged that today I received my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as a front-line doctor, working locally here in West London hospitals.

I am completely confident that the vaccine will protect me as much as is possible and is safe. I have been encouraging all my patients to take it as soon as they are offered it.

Covid is absolutely not a joke. Today a very close friend, aged 63, with no health problems, a full time doctor, a father and grandfather, died from Covid on an intensive care unit.

When the first wave of Covid struck back in March I was working on wards full of patients with Covid: on my first ward round on the Monday, one patient died before I had even finished seeing everyone, and two more patients, perhaps your neighbours, died later the same day.

During that first week, seven patients died under my care. This was truly devastating. Many staff, especially nurses and other healthcare professionals, and especially those from Black and Asian backgrounds, were terrified because of the undoubted extra risks they seemed to face. And we now face a seemingly worse situation.

My hospital – which is your local hospital – has filled almost all space for the sickest patients, despite having massively expanded the available ITU beds, and is close to becoming overwhelmed. We are having to reduce most routine health care, which of course is not routine for those affected, but crucially important to them.

I can no longer be sure I can give patients life-sustaining or life-changing transplants when they become available. I have had to radically curtail my outpatient clinics. We are reducing all operations which are not life-saving. We are not exaggerating the problems in any shape or form.

When you’re offered a vaccination – take it!

Therefore please, keep at home, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep away from people, and get vaccinated as soon as you get the offer. Vaccination is the only way to get rid of this problem, like it did with Polio in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Very few people can now remember the scourge of Polio, killing or disabling children and adults, a disease which has been eradicated by vaccination. The risks from Covid are infinitely more dangerous, and Covid is devastating lives.

You will be invited by your GP to receive a vaccine by age group (oldest people and those “clinically extremely vulnerable” first): please don’t chase your GP – they have all being working flat out in very difficult circumstances and have created appropriate lists of patients, and the vaccines have to be spread out around the country.

You will be called when a vaccine is available locally and for you. When this happens, just say yes! And you won’t get a choice of vaccine: both are excellent, extremely well validated despite the short time scale, and work well. And it is clear to me that offering more people the first jab and delaying the second will save more lives short term and reduce illness: the first dose gives more immediate protection (via generating immediate antibodies), while the second (booster dose) gives longer lasting protection by stimulating other parts of the immune system (for example T cells).

The evidence suggests that for the country, for the population as a whole, for you, your friends and relatives, this is a better approach given the extra-ordinary circumstances we are in. And don’t forget that younger people are not immune from the devastating consequences of Covid, even if the risks of death are lower.

I am currently looking after patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s suffering prolonged hospital admissions and serious long-term consequences from Covid. Your Facebook “friends” telling you stories of vaccine harms, are not telling you that Covid kills, maims and devastates. Please, keep away from crowds, closed spaces, wear your mask, and say yes when offered your vaccine.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Prime Minister announces third national lockdown

See also: Latest Covid figures for Chiswick 

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