Covid vaccine is not an overnight game-changer — we can't become complacent

THE new vaccine is hugely promising and highlights the phenomenal work of scientists and clinicians globally to develop Covid vaccines at pace.

The speed of scientific work to reduce the impact of Covid is unparalleled.

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The initial findings show the vaccine has a 90 per cent effectiveness in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infection.

Thanks to the great work of the UK Vaccines Task Force, we should be able to benefit from millions of doses this year if it meets the stringent requirements of our medicines regulator and is approved for use.

But I want to be clear — this is not an overnight game-changer, and this is not the time to become complacent.

Everyone must continue to follow the latest restrictions, look out for each other and work together to bring down the rate of infection.

The full impact of a successful vaccine won’t be felt until 2021 but there is a reason to be optimistic — there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What is the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer jab is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus's genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine.

This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is dramatically accelerated.

As a result, mRNA vaccines have been hailed as potentially offering a rapid solution to new outbreaks of infectious diseases.

They can also be modified reasonably quickly if, for example, a virus develops mutations and begins to change.

mRNA vaccines are also cheaper to produce than traditional vaccines. But both will play an important role in tackling Covid-19.

Are they safe?

All vaccines undergo rigorous testing and have oversight from experienced regulators.

Some believe mRNA vaccines are safer for the patient as they do not rely on any element of the virus being injected into the body.

mRNA vaccines have been tried and tested in the lab and on animals but the coronavirus vaccine will be the first one licensed for use in humans.

The human trials of mRNA vaccines – involving tens of thousands of people – have been going on since early 2020 to show whether it is safe and effective.

Pfizer will continue to collect safety and long-term outcomes data from participants for two years.

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