The UK’s vaccination response to COVID-19 is being rolled out with remarkable speed. Over 80% of the adult population have had a first vaccine dose, and over 60% are fully vaccinated (you can check the progress here!). Anyone aged 18 or over can currently book a free vaccination appointment through the NHS website.
It’s an incredible achievement, both on the part of the NHS and on the part of the people getting vaccinated. The impact can be seen in lower infection numbers and much fewer fatalities, compared to the beginning of the year.
If we’re all getting vaccinated, though, why is there still so much emphasis on getting tested for COVID-19?
Vaccines are an incredible, life-saving innovation, but the protection they offer against an illness may not last forever. The current vaccines are effective against infection and even more effective against becoming seriously ill, but over time some people may still catch COVID-19.
There are also people for whom the vaccine won’t be as effective. For example, people with weakened immune systems may not be able to fight off the virus as well, even if they’ve been vaccinated.
We can’t completely eradicate COVID-19’s transmission, but, by acting responsibly, we can bring the risk down. If we continue acting with caution if we think we might have COVID-19, and get tested when necessary, we can help to protect the people around us.
Testing is particularly important when we’re travelling overseas. Different countries are at different levels of vaccination, for a variety of reasons. Bringing COVID-19 into a country with low immunity in the population, or bringing it back from a country with high COVID levels, could have serious effects. Stay aware of the travel guidelines, and book a test with VSM Pharmacy if you need it.
It’s also important to get vaccinated as soon as we can, in order to protect both ourselves and others. If we’re all vaccinated, the virus will spread less and will be less dangerous to the people who catch it.
The impact of variants
During this pandemic, we’ve seen a couple of cases where more infectious variants have arisen and started to dominate. At the moment, we’re battling the Delta variant.
Some of these variants are harder to stop with the current vaccines. For example, this Guardian article gives some numbers for the Delta variant:
According to figures gathered by Public Health Scotland and published in the Lancet, at least two weeks after the second dose of Covid jabs, protection against infection fell from 92% for the Alpha variant to 79% against the Delta variant for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, while for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine the protection fell from 73% to 60% respectively.
Fortunately, our current vaccines still give good protection against the variants we’ve seen so far, and they can reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death even if we do catch the virus. However, if a variant that’s not as affected by the current vaccines shows up, it’s important for us to notice and act as soon as possible. Because of this, we need to keep track of COVID-19 numbers, which means that people still need to be tested.
This doesn’t mean there’s no chance of bringing COVID-19 under control. Consider the flu, which is constantly changing and evolving. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s constantly going down with the flu; it just means that we need a slightly different flu vaccine every year. In order for us to know whether new vaccines will be necessary and get them developed quickly, though, people will need to keep getting tested.
The vaccine rollout is a huge step in overcoming this pandemic. We’ve been living under restrictions for a long time, and it can be tempting to get a bit reckless when we see light at the end of the tunnel. If we keep acting responsibly, though, we can protect our health and the health of those around us.