As the meteorological summer (such as it was) gives way to autumn, attention invariably turns to what comes next in our battle against Covid-19. While much has changed over the last 18 months, our priority remains clear: to prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed.
For much of the pandemic, this required lockdowns. But now, largely thanks to our vaccination programme, we can enjoy many of the freedoms and wonders of city life. Yet clearly challenges remain and the decisions we take now will impact our lives in the weeks and months ahead.
We hope vaccine passports for nightclubs will encourage younger people to get jabbed. Meanwhile, boosters for the clinically vulnerable and elderly will be a crucial tool in this regard. Israel — a world leader in vaccinating its population and reopening its economy — is rapidly rolling out third shots to counter evidence of waning vaccine efficacy.
The question of vaccines for all 12 to 15-year-olds continues to vex the Government. Ministers are impatient for a decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which would bring the UK in line with other high-income countries. But it is yet to clearly communicate to children and their parents the full benefits of vaccination, given that so few young people are hospitalised or die as a result of the virus.
Finally, and too often an afterthought, is how we use our supply to vaccinate the world. As Sage member Professor Andrew Hayward said earlier, the Government needs to set out how it will prioritise our excess doses between vulnerable people in the UK and those around the world.
The World Health Organisation has been clear that the greatest threat to our fight against Covid is a new, potentially vaccine-busting variant. We look on at the so-called “Mu” variant with apprehension. That is why the Evening Standard is running the “Vaccine for the World” campaign, to highlight the challenges, potential solutions and role of London’s scientists and innovators in making a safer world for all. As the temperatures start to dip in London and across the northern hemisphere and more activity returns indoors, we must up our game to protect all the vital gains we have made since the spring.