In our last episode, I spoke to Professor Adam Finn to discuss the phenomenal achievements of the research community in developing several safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
Since that conversation, two more vaccines – the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and the Moderna vaccine – have received approval for use in the UK by the MHRA; the COVID vaccination programme is now in full swing; and the government aims to offer a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by mid-February. But alongside this fantastic progress in the battle against COVID-19, we are also seeing new, even more infectious strains of the virus emerging around the world; including here in the UK.
Given these pivotal developments, I was delighted Adam took some more time out of his busy schedule, which includes advising UK health departments on COVID-19 vaccine strategy, to give us an updated assessment of the situation as he sees it.
During the conversation, we discussed how confident we can be that existing vaccines provide protection against the new strains of COVID identified; our understanding of how long the vaccines provide protection; and if Adam foresees any reason why, if some vaccines turn out to be more effective than others, they can’t subsequently be given to people who’ve already had the less effective ones some months earlier.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges to the government’s vaccination programme is ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among some sections of the population. Much of this hesitancy is driven by an understandable concern that there must have been a compromise in standards to deliver the vaccines so quickly.
For anyone experiencing these concerns, I urge you to read Adam’s recent article in The Guardian, Ten reasons we got Covid-19 vaccines so quickly without ‘cutting corners’. In the article, Adam sets out, with characteristic clarity, why we can all have confidence in the processes that underpinned this remarkable achievement of the global research community.
Thanks, as ever, to Adam for his time, and I hope you enjoy the conversation.