Get your booster vaccine to help prevent Covid surge, top doctor urges people in Northern Ireland

A leading Northern Ireland doctor has urged people to get their booster jab as a key way of controlling the Covid outbreak and stemming the NHS crisis.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 6:57 am
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 7:09 am
Dr Alan Stout, a GP and BMA leader in NI, said: “There is very significant evidence that the Covid vaccination is protecting our population from severe disease, hospitalisation and death"

Dr Alan Stout, a GP who is deputy chair of the BMA in Northern Ireland, added his voice to those of scientists across the UK who are hopeful that the booster jabs rollout and immunity from the summertime spread of the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant should help Britain escape the surge in infections seen in parts of Europe.

With 13 more Covid-linked deaths announced in NI over the weekend, Dr Stout told the News Letter: “There is very significant evidence that the Covid vaccination is protecting our population from severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

“It remains our main defence and it is critical that everyone is vaccinated as soon as they are eligible be it with their first, second or booster dose. Our current strategy is quite rightly to keep society as open as possible and this depends very heavily on a successful vaccination program.”

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Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, on the BBC1's The Andrew Marr show on Sunday. He said " We’re already ahead of that with this particular virus, the Delta variant” Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

There have been protests in a number of countries including Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands at new restrictions in response to sharp rises in cases. In Belfast there was a protest on Saturday (see below).

But the UK, which saw pandemic measures eased in the summer, is “already ahead” of such a spike, one expert said.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, one of those behind the creation of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, said it is “unlikely” the UK will see a rise similar to parts of Europe.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’ve actually had some spread (of the virus) going on since the summer, and so I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to see the very sharp rise in the next few months that’s just been seen. We’re already ahead of that with this particular virus, the Delta variant.”

A NHS worker looks for patients at a Covid-19 pop-up vaccination centre. Scientists are hopeful that the booster jabs rollout and immunity from the summertime spread of the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant should help Britain escape the surge in infections seen in parts of Europe

Professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, Linda Bauld, said while the picture remains “uncertain”, there are a number of factors which could help the UK avoid the situation seen in other countries.

She told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “We dealt with our Delta wave in the summer and early autumn. We’re still in it of course but not those big rises.

“And then the other features are around, unfortunately, because we’ve had high infections in the past, we’ve probably a bit more natural immunity in the population - as in immunity post-infection, particularly for younger groups who’ve not been eligible for vaccines.”

The vaccine rollouts are also slightly different in that the dosing gap between first and second doses in many of the European countries was smaller than in the UK, she said.

But she added there is an element of “grave concern actually in trying to determine whether there are differences in the situation in Europe, or whether it’s just a matter of time until this faces us here”.

Sir Andrew said reaching the point where the virus no longer spreads is “not going to be a thing”, saying the Covid-19 will be around “for decades”, but he added that vaccines are successfully slowing it down.

At Stormont, an SDLP MLA has called on the executive to end the “mixed messaging” and work to implement vaccine certification for Northern Ireland.

Matthew O’Toole, whose party was among the first to call for the introduction of a vaccine passport scheme for Northern Ireland, said on Sunday that vaccine certification was one of the ways to ensure a safer Christmas.

Mr O’Toole said it would have been better to have introduced the scheme several weeks ago.

Earlier this week, a majority of Stormont ministers backed the introduction of a Covid certification scheme, despite DUP opposition.

It will see legal enforcement of coronavirus status entry requirements for nightclubs, bars, restaurants and a range of other settings from December 13.

“We were a day late and a dollar short, so we should have moved earlier but the important thing is to get it implemented and implemented in a way that protects the health service but is also as seamless as possible for the businesses affected,” Mr O’Toole told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics programme.

Meanwhile in the Republic its chief medical officer has said Ireland still has time to reverse the trajectory of Covid.

Dr Tony Holohan called on people to follow the public health advice and asked anyone eligible for a booster to take it.

Ireland is currently going through a fourth wave of the pandemic, prompting fears about the capacity of the health system to cope.

According to the latest figures, there are 640 patients in hospitals with the disease, with 121 in intensive care.

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