The light at the end of the needle

At the start of March 2020, there were under 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK. By the end of March, there were over 22,000 cases, over 2,000 people had died, and the country was in lockdown. It’s been a long, hard year since then. But the way people have fought against this disease together has been incredible.

We’ve learnt to work from home. We’ve worn masks. We’ve given people space in the street. We’ve disinfected our hands. We’ve self-isolated. We’ve walked instead of taking public transport. We’ve home-schooled our children. We’ve stayed in touch with friends remotely. We’ve ordered groceries online. We’ve offered help to those who need it. We’ve made so many changes to our lives, small and large, in order to protect everyone around us from the virus.

Meanwhile, people have worked to develop vaccines with unprecedented speed. Because of the researchers who have lent their skills to the effort, and because of the ordinary people who have volunteered to participate in trials, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.

The advantages of COVID-19 vaccination

It’s worth getting vaccinated if you can. It’ll bring down your chances of getting COVID-19, and it’s reported to reduce the risk of getting a case bad enough to need hospitalisation, even if you catch it. It might even be able to help people who’ve been through the virus already, and not only by boosting their defences against reinfection; there are promising early reports that vaccination might ease the long-term symptoms in some people with ‘long COVID’.

Getting vaccinated also protects the people around you: those who aren’t scheduled to be vaccinated yet, for example, or those who can’t get the vaccine. If you’re vaccinated, you’re much less likely to get a case of COVID-19 and pass it on to the people you love.

Similarly to any vaccine, some people experience mild side effects after vaccination, such as aches, tiredness or fever. But these will usually clear up after a couple of days, and the benefits of being vaccinated are more than worth the temporary discomfort.

The UK vaccine rollout

The vaccine rollout is going well, with hundreds of thousands of people being vaccinated every day; you can keep track of the UK vaccine numbers on this government webpage. At the moment, about 25 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, over a third of the UK population; 1.5 million have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated.

At the start of the vaccine rollout, there were tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed in the UK every day. By this point, it’s down to about 5,000 per day.

That doesn’t mean we can become complacent; we’re roughly at the level of the first peak, and we should continue taking care to prevent transmission. But it’s a reassuring sign that we’re heading in the right direction, and that the lockdown and the vaccines are making a difference.

COVID-19 won’t be eradicated completely. But, through vaccination, we can reduce its spread, we can make it less dangerous to those who catch it, and we can bring it down to the point where we can begin to live our lives again.

The UK is aiming to offer at least a first vaccine dose to all adults by the end of July. Let’s look towards this summer with hope.

What’s something you’re looking forward to when lockdown ends? Let us know in the comments below!

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