Pfizer vaccine news is not the end of Covid-19 restrictions, health experts warn

The beginning of a vaccination programme in Scotland will not mean the end of social distancing, face masks and lockdown restrictions for some time, health experts have warned.
Face coverings should still be worn, experts have said. Picture: John DevlinFace coverings should still be worn, experts have said. Picture: John Devlin
Face coverings should still be worn, experts have said. Picture: John Devlin

The declaration comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the first wave of vaccinations will begin on Tuesday.

“There is speculation that people will think ‘oh, the vaccine is here, everything’s OK’. It’s not,” said Professor Rowland Kao, epidemiologist at Edinburgh University.

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People should “absolutely” continue to observe restrictions, he said.

"If you want to have restrictions ended sooner, the thing to do is to get the infection numbers down now, as much as we can,” he said.

Prof Kao added: "It needs to go at a measured pace ... you can definitely start thinking about releasing things, you want to be in a place where you can treat it like seasonal flu."

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He added: “If you think about Easter as a time when maybe we can't do everything, but we could be in a very different position than we are now, that's realistic. But things have to go right and people almost certainly do have to maintain some restrictions over that time.”

Prof Kao also pointed out that even when the vaccine is delivered, it will not give people 100 per cent protection.

"The key thing is we have a pathway,” he said. “Before the vaccine we did not have a pathway ... there was no clear way to end it. Now we've got a clear way to end it. Ending it does not mean getting rid of virus altogether, it means getting it to a low enough stage to treat it like flu.”

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “This vaccine is a fantastic new tool in our defences against the virus, but we all still have a part to play in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

"I urge everyone to keep sticking to the measures, including the use of face coverings, social distancing, following the guidance on tier restrictions and isolating when sick. It is vital we all stay healthy to enable the NHS to support the roll out of this new vaccine.”

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