Leeds Covid expert hails vaccine, but warns there is work ahead

One of Leeds’ top virus experts has dubbed the new Covid-19 vaccine a “no-brainer”, but warned individuals not to become complacent.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 7:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 9:15 pm

A new Covid-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, working with German biotech company BioNTech, has been approved for use in the UK, authorities have announced.

It is thought the vaccine could be rolled out to Leeds as early as next week with the elderly and front-line health workers expected to be the first to benefit.

Dr Stephen Griffin, a viral oncologist at the University of Leeds, said: “It’s not going to happen immediately, but it is fantastic that we can move in less than a year to sequencing a vaccine.

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Leeds could get the vaccine in the coming weeks.

“If we are unable to suppress the virus, then we need a vaccine, but we can’t be complacent – we still have hundreds of people in hospital and people are still dying every day.

“It will target the most vulnerable first, but I would also target the most vulnerable people who are not elderly early on too.”

He added that, in order for the vaccine to stop the virus spreading, a large majority of people – around 70 percent of the population – needed to have had the vaccine.

The vaccine was tested on 43,500 people in six countries with no safety concerns, while analysis shows it can prevent around 95 percent of people from getting Covid-19. Known as an mRNA – it uses a copy of the genetic code of the virus and tells cells to create antigens to kill it.

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine – 10 million of which are due in the UK by the end of the year.

“I am confident that the safety has been done to the right regulations, it’s just been done really quickly,” Prof Griffin added. “So far it has been tested on tens of thousands of people around the world, and there has not been any cause for concern.

“I think there has the political drive to get this done – everybody wants this to be over – the virus has been mismanaged and the Government will want it to be rolled out as soon as possible – but there is no way it would be rolled out without the safety data.

“It’s short-lived in our bodies and it gives our immune system a boost. It’s a clever vaccine and it works well – the risks are outweighed by the benefits and this one is, I think, a no-brainer.”