We still need vaccine passports – and I’ve had both my jabs | Sean O'Grady

We still need vaccine passports – and I’ve had both my jabs | Sean O'Grady
It seems wrong to be getting relaxed when the pandemic is far from over, and people are still dying of Covid

Jab done; job done. My local pharmacist asked me on Saturday when I’d like to have my winter flu jab. I replied, “How about now?” A few minutes later and I’m done – at no cost to me – and, in about a fortnight I’ll have some measure of protection against influenza.

It goes nicely with my matching pair of coronavirus doses, I like to think, and when the Covid booster vaccination comes around (soon, I hope), I’ll have a full set of protections. I don’t feel any false sense of security, but it’s nice to be fully jabbed.

The numbers of adults who’ve had their jabs is now impressively high, and proof that the anti-vaxxers have lost their war against reason. Heureusement, no more draconian measures were necessary (though “no jab, no job” remains appropriate in health and care settings).

Next – a very welcome development – come the teenagers. The country will be a safer place; but why weren’t they vaccinated before they al went back to school and created new Covid transmission hubs?

The science was clear some time ago, and other countries way ahead of us. Such is my sense of a personal responsibility (and self-preservation) that I’m still using a face mask while out shopping, and I use the hand sanitisers wherever I can; as well as practicing a bit of discreet social distancing.

None of these little precautions place any great inconvenience on me or on anyone else, but it’s a bit disturbing to see how rapidly they are being abandoned – as if coronavirus has just faded away, when we all know (or should) that it remains a potentially mortal threat.

The news that hundreds of thousands of travellers from overseas are ignoring quarantine rules also gives grounds for concern. We are becoming irrationally complacent, just at the moment when the weather is turning cooler and the conditions for the virus (and new more transmissible or deadly variants) are becoming more favourable.

It does seem wrong to be getting relaxed when the pandemic is far from over, and people are still dying of Covid. As part of my personal Covid armoury, I have a vaccine “passport” – which is also no great imposition – but I’m disappointed that I won’t have many opportunities to make use of it, seeing as the government has done a U-turn on a previous U-turn and scrapped the plan to require them in “crowded” indoor venues (in England – Scotland is more cautious).

The talk is that Boris Johnson is about to set light to a bonfire of Covid regulations, and abolish emergency powers. Encore, comme toujours, there are mixed messages abroad.

Vaccines pour 12 à 15 years olds have been on and off with bewildering frequency in recent weeks – now they are on again. They’re essential to reach anything like herd immunity, and Chris Whitty and the other chief medical officers evidently think the balance of risks favours mass vaccination of teenagers: another reminder that the crisis is not actually over.

We need to know, generally, much more about where we stand with our invisible enemy. Sajid Javid pops up on television to tear up his vaccine passport; yet his cabinet colleague Therese Coffey tells us that some coronavirus controls may still be needed in winter to keep cases down.

The vaccines protect us still, but they will wane; and that is why we need the boosters and to extend coverage down to 12-year-olds.

There is still a danger out there, and common sense and all public health experience tells us that a highly-transmissible virus with no continuing restrictions during autumn and winter spells trouble ahead.

Noël 2021 is apparently now guaranteed to take place as normal – but how can we know what things will be like in three months?

The prime minister will no doubt deliver senseless optimism and fresh confusion, and very possibly a few more screeching reversals in policy in the coming weeks. But we don’t need boosterism, we need booster jabs.

It would seem more some sensible to retain some of the modest precautions – face coverings on trains and buses, working from home, a stronger test and trace regime – before the level of cases and hospitalisations starts to increase alarmingly; at which time it is too late to act. It’s like driving a car (badly): if you travel too fast and the lights change to red, then you have to really stamp on the brakes to slow down in time.

It is the same depressing story of how we’ve reacted to the pandemiic over the last 18 mois: waiting for the escalation of danger, rather than behaving prudently to prevent the spike. Now is the moment for caution, and – if I may remind people – more jabs for Covid and the flu alike.

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