While things may seem gloomy, the COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of a very long tunnel. In these dark days it shows us the route back to some kind of normality.

Several people have written to me with questions about the various Covid vaccines. As many of you have said, the vaccine appears to have been produced at an almost miraculous speed. While this is unprecedented, there has been no compromise on testing of effectiveness or safety.

First off, the research for these vaccines started many years ago, decades in some cases, as there have been strains of Covid and other similar conditions for some time.

In any drug trial, several stages and processes have to take place.  Usually, these stages happen consecutively because of the need to obtain funding, numbers of participants and other practical problems.  In the Covid vaccine trials these were overlapping, speeding things up. This was possible because governments took the unusual step of effectively paying for vaccines in advance, allowing them to be mass produced and tested in large clinical trials before the earlier testing stages were completed.

Additionally, the development took place at times of rapidly increasing infection across the world. This meant thousands of people could take part but also be observed for side effects for months after being injected.

For me, one of the strongest arguments in favour of the vaccine is the balance of risk – as with all medical interventions. No medicine, from aspirin to chemotherapy is without some risk but they are licensed when the risks have been measured, identified and shown to be outweighed by the risks of no treatment or vaccine. The trials and checks mean any risk from this vaccine is likely to be minuscule, compared to very real lethal risk from COVID-19. Similarly, any non-lethal side effects of the vaccine are likely to be less serious than ‘long covid’ which is seriously debilitating.

For these reasons, I personally cannot wait to get vaccinated and I strongly urge everyone to take up the vaccine when it becomes available for you – then we can start to get back to something like normal life.

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