The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has today been reasserting the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and insisting that our jabs programme remains on track, despite the recommendation yesterday by this country’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, that adults under 30 should be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
He is right to do so because although the regulator’s recommendation is based on a possible link to blood clotting, the fact is, as it and other medical experts have made clear, that the balance of risk still remains strongly in favour of getting vaccinated.
That’s because the health benefits of avoiding the risk of death or serious illness from Covid are far greater than the tiny chance of developing a clot, which in any case can be treated if the symptoms, which include a severe, persistent headache, blurred vision or chest pain, are recognised soon enough, as we report today.
It’s true, of course, that the equation is different for younger adults who are much less likely to suffer badly from coronavirus, which is why the regulator proposes that they should be offered either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine instead.
But as Mr Hancock made clear today, there’s enough supply of these two other jabs to cater for the 8.5 million so far unvaccinated people in the 18 to 29 age group and for the Government to hit its target of having the entire adult population vaccinated by July 31. That’s good news, but the main threat would be any lack of confidence and take-up and that’s what it’s so important to avoid.
There’s no reason at all for anyone, whatever their age, to shun the alternative vaccines, over which there are no safety doubts, and no reason either for anyone older to avoid the AstraZeneca jab, which it’s worth remembering has already been administered safely and successfully to millions of people in this country and some 200 million worldwide.
The weekly death toll in this country is already falling as a result. Another motivation should be altruistic, because getting vaccinated helps stop the spread of Covid to others and ultimately both reduces the death toll and makes it easier to reopen our economy and remove the wearying restrictions on our lives. The message remains clear: keep getting vaccinated.
Gavin Williamson has frequently come under fire during his time as Education Secretary, but has struck the right note with his warning about the deeply harmful impact of excessive screen time on the young.
Mr Williamson says “it’s now time to put the screens away, particularly the mobile phones” and that their use distracts from exercise and play and acts as a “breeding ground” for cyberbullying and other unsavoury activity.
He’s correct on all points and his call for schools to assist by making pupils keep their phones out of class should be met with action from headteachers. What he’s expressing will also surely chime with the concerns of parents, too many of whom now find themselves struggling to cope with what has become an epidemic of children being addicted to their screens at home.
It’s one of the disastrous consequences of lockdown, made worse by home schooling, and looks certain to leave the country facing an unhappy legacy after the pandemic of increased mental health problems and obesity among the young. Finding solutions is imperative and Mr Williamson has started a debate that must continue.