“We have to keep on with the message that Covid is much worse than anything that the vaccines are likely to do to you. And unfortunately the virus will find people in the community who are unvaccinated.”
That was the message from Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, during an exclusive virtual panel discussion held by The Independent.
Alongside Professor Ball was Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, who is a former Public Health England consultant on communicable disease control.
They were both taking part in the event that was focused on exploring the Covid vaccine programme, where it is currently up to and what is likely to come, as well as myth busting some of the greyer areas which have led to confusion.
Dr Pankhania is pleased the UK is now rolling out the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds and explained the reasons why.
Watch the full recording of the event in the video below
Covid vaccines: Uncovering the unknown
He said: “I am very pleased the United Kingdom is finally falling inline with the United States Canada, the European Union and others countries with regards to immunising 12-15 year olds. Now the reasons for immunising are several, let’s just go through them one by one.
“Protection, protection is always better than a wild infection furthermore there is that spectre of long Covid after infection and we don’t know what long Covid means, how long it lasts for and what it can do to our young children. And protection from infection also stops you from turning up to your GP and being ill, from you turning up at hospital and being ill and missing school and school disruption.
“So when you put all those factors together the pendulum really does swing in favour of schools immunisation and really we have a precedent on this matter. We have always had the seasonal influenza vaccine programme for school children and that has run efficiently and kept infection down, and that is the same here.”
Professor Ball addressed the concerns that the vaccines cause an inflammation around the heart, known as myocarditis and pericarditis.
He said: “Now the reality is on the whole those cases recover very quickly with very little intervention. This is a complication that has been seen, very rare, about one in 100,000 cases. We think that these sorts of impacts, these sorts of inflammation even in children can occur with Covid infection and we think it is probably more frequent. So if you have a child who gets infected there is greater chance of them getting this inflammation than if they were vaccinated. And I think that’s why the balance is particularly tipped towards vaccination.
“Of course as we go towards autumn and winter and schools have just gone back we are already seeing a lot of circulation in secondary school children and actually primary school children. Yes, there are concerns, but I think compared to other issues that Covid brings the sea saw tips in favour of vaccines and I am surprised these decisions on both the booster programme and the child programme have taken so long to trickle through. “
The expert panel went onto discuss the booster jab programme, due to be rolled out in the coming weeks and months, and The Independent’s health correspondent Shaun Lintern was able to confirm the general perspective on the current vaccine programme from staff within the NHS.
He added: “There has been a real sense of urgency within NHS staff’s minds that they want to get this going as quickly as possible. We do still have millions of people unvaccinated and we have learnt with coronavirus is that it is adept at finding any chink in our amour and what worries the people I speak to in the NHS is that as we allow the infections to grow, as they currently are, the pool of the virus is getting bigger everyday and what that means is that it will seek out and find those people who are not vaccinated and what that means is that we will unfortunately see people in hospital and will see people die.”
To watch the event in full scroll up to the video.
Our next virtual event is being held on 29 September and is being hosted by lifestyle writer, author and podcast host Olivia Petter. Millennial Love: Dating post pandemic will be held on Zoom and start at 6.30pm. Olivia will be joined by the author of Alonement Francesca Specter, dating psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree and Hinge’s Director of Relationship Science, Logan Ury. The discussion, held on Zoom, will look at the changed landscape when it comes to finding love – no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation or where you live.