Don’t question the scientists’ motives, celebrate their genius - Christa Ackroyd

The coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech has given the world hope in the battle against Covid-19. (PA).The coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech has given the world hope in the battle against Covid-19. (PA).
The coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech has given the world hope in the battle against Covid-19. (PA).
Today I appeal for calm. An end to the shouting, division and ranting.

And most of all an end to the attitude that has slowly crept into our psyche, that you are wrong because I am right.

Over the next few weeks, we will be asked to make probably one of the most important decisions of our lives. And that is whether to agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19. We are on the brink of choosing whether to end this nightmare. Surely we all want that?

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So there are two things I want to say. Firstly, we need to stop talking and listen to the science, if that is not now a much-derided phrase. We must put our trust in those who have been working day and night to provide us with a potential solution. After all, they have done it before. Vaccinations have saved billions of lives. Why should this one be any different?

Secondly, would I be vaccinated today, tomorrow, next month, whenever it is offered? Yes. I am on the vulnerable person’s list and I want to get off it. So, if in the weeks to come, I get another letter asking me to go for a vaccination, I will be first in the queue.

After those who need it before me, of course, and that includes our care workers, our elderly, and of course our NHS workers who are again being asked to risk their lives to save ours.

But I understand people’s fears. This virus is new, deadly and devastating. And we are, or should be, justifiably frightened of it. Our anxiety levels are through the roof. Our lives have changed beyond recognition and many, like me, have lost people they loved along the way.

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But shouting and screaming will do nothing to assuage those fears. It will only make others, especially those most vulnerable to this terrible disease, retreat into yet more confusion.

So here I will attempt to explain why for me this is the beacon of hope we have been waiting for and why we should be celebrating the genius of scientists, not questioning their motives.

We cannot continue to live our lives from behind the mask, petrified of an unseen enemy. We cannot look to the future while this disease continues its rampage.

The vast majority of us have stoically accepted what we have been told we must do to save lives and protect the National Health Service with our usual stiff upper lip, because that is the British way.

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But we are all only human and for those who fear this deadly virus that lip has quivered many times as we face a life devoid of hugs and human contact, as families are divided and the elderly and the unwell left isolated and scared. If you are not frightened, I suspect that is because you have been one of the lucky ones.

So here is what I know. For this vaccine to work, 55 per cent of us will have to agree to have it. You are not being vaccinated with Covid, or a weakened form of the virus, as traditional vaccines tended to do.

Instead these vaccines, and there are more than one almost ready, use genetic code which, once injected, persuades the cells in our bodies to produce the protein found on the outside of the virus and so trains the immune system to respond to it so our bodies recognise it in the future.

But will it work? To put it into context the 90 per cent success rate of the first trials is something even the best scientific brains in the world could only have dreamt of. If you get a flu vaccine, at best it protects around 60 per cent of us. With mumps, until now the most rapid vaccination to be developed, there’s a success rate of 88 per cent.

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So has it been rushed? There are three phases in the development of vaccines. The first two show the ability to produce antibodies. The third shows how long those antibodies last.

Normally, and often because the study groups are small, each phase follows another. This time, because of urgency and the numbers of volunteers – in the case of Pfizer 43,538 of them – the studies have been done almost simultaneously.

There are 170 teams of scientists working to produce a vaccine around the world. So far the side effects have been headaches and muscle aches which go after a day or so.

But vaccines are only licensed even in an emergency if the safety issues are accepted by experienced regulators. They have done this before. The level of safety data required remains unchanged.

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Yes, these vaccines are new. Yes, I understand the need to be cautious. But don’t you think the scientists are being cautious too? To put it bluntly these are not mad scientists in a James Bond film seeking world domination, nor are they planning to inject tracking devices into humans to spy on them. Those are the crazy theories of fiction.

They are good men and women who dedicate their lives to saving others. They have done so in the past and are looking to do so again.

We think nothing of having a vaccination to go on holiday. I had to take my yellow fever certificate into India at the start of the year. Never questioned it. I had never heard of Japanese encephalitis when I was advised to have an injection to protect me against mosquitos in Sri Lanka.

Did I have those injections because I wanted to stay safe on my travels? Of course I did. Did I think people were out to get me, to control me ? No, I felt people were out to protect me.

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Here is what I think will happen if all the safety criteria for this new vaccine are met. Slowly but surely, as more people agree to it, others will come forward and we will reach our target of 55 per cent. I hope so.

There lies the beginning of a return to life as we know it – and a life we have all come to realise we probably took too much for granted.

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