After a seemingly never ending year of restrictions, lockdowns and hardships, the recent roll out of effective COVID-19 vaccines offers hope for life returning to normal. But how long will that take?
In December 2020, the UK was the first in the world to approve the use of the Pfzier and BioNTech vaccine – the fastest vaccine ever to be found highly effective, later followed by the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the 30th December 2020. These vaccines have been proven to be over 90% effective and the UK have ordered 147 million doses collectively – enough to vaccinate the whole population.
Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first?
Since the approval of the vaccine in early December last year, vaccinations have already started to take place and so far over a million people in the UK have been vaccinated against the virus.
Those that are most vulnerable to the virus are first on the list to receive the vaccine. With the help of the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI), the government has set out a list of nine high-priority groups who are thought to represent 90-99% of those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19.
The list is as follows:
- Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
- People aged 80 and older, and frontline health and social care workers
- 75-year-olds and older
- 70-year-olds and older and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
- 65-year-olds and older
- People with serious underlying health conditions aged between 16-64
- 60-year-olds and older
- 55-year-olds and older
- 50-year-olds and older
Although care home residents are first on the list, those aged 80 and over in hospital, frontline health staff and care home workers were the first to be vaccinated. This is because the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at the ultra-low temperature of -70ºC – something only a select few hospitals were able to accommodate.
Since 14th December, clearer direction was given on how to safely transport the vaccine in smaller batches meaning the vaccine can now be transported to care homes where it will be diluted and drawn up for use.
The UK is due to receive 530,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week. This vaccine is far easier to transport and store, meaning those who need it most will finally be able to be protected.
Both vaccines require 2 doses to guarantee over 90% efficacy at protecting against the virus. The first dose offers varying levels of protection, so in an effort to ensure the largest number of people are protected as soon as possible, the government has increased the maximum wait time between each injection from 3 weeks to 12.
When will we be back to normal?
Whilst the successful development and distribution of the Pfzier vaccine is a huge step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go before returning to complete normality.
Experts have predicted that it will take until at least April to vaccinate all of the nine high-priority groups, then even longer for the rest of the population, so measures such as keeping our distance, wearing a face mask and likely, more nationwide/local restrictions are here to stay for a while longer.
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