With all the pathetic, posturing, patriotic hoo-ha around getting the vaccination programme authorised first- nothing like authorising a vaccine developed in Germany by Turkish immigrants for a US company manufactured in Belgium to make you “Proud to be British”- and hyped up just in time to give everyone false reassurance before the Xmas relaxation of restrictions generates the same sort of third wave as we saw in the USA after Thanksgiving – the quantity of vaccine currently available has been downplayed.
The UK currently has 800,000 doses. As everyone has to be vaccinated twice, that’s enough for 400.000 people. Considering vulnerable groups, there are 3.2 million people aged over 80. In addition there are 1.3 million workers in the NHS and 1.5 million working in adult social care, so its not going to stretch very far very fast.
A million more doses are due next week, but even if that rate of supply is kept up it would take until the end of January just to do all of the over eighties; assuming that no front line workers are going to be covered at the same time.
Because it is going to take a long time, even to vaccinate the most vulnerable, any delusions that its all over are very dangerous. If you add that to Jonathan Van Tam’s argument that the virus cannot be eliminated and we are going to have to live with it forever, a worrying variant on herd immunity is starting to re-emerge.
Rather than seeing the vaccines as a tool to eradicate the virus, the logic of this is that if the most vulnerable are vaccinated, it becomes an “acceptable level of risk” for everyone else to go back to normal before they are vaccinated and therefore still in danger. This will be posed in macho, character building terms about not hiding under the sheets for fear of the virus. But to mangle one of Van Tam’s metaphors, even if all the penalty takers get on to the train that is just pulling into the station, not only will the train be travelling very slowly once it sets off, it doesn’t actually have a destination and will just keep trundling along for ever and ever amen.
The approach to schools during the tightened restrictions that have just ended has been a dummy run for this. It rapidly became apparent that secondary school students were the age group with the most rapid viral spread – but schools were kept open. The relatively small dent in viral spread made by the Mockdown, compared to the previous one in the Spring can partly be attributed to this.
Although the government in Wales has finally moved to distance learning for the last two weeks of term, without the UK government following suit – and also keeping restrictions in place over Xmas as tight as they were during Eid and Diwali – we will be heading for a third wave in January and the vaccine programme will barely dent it.