The news this week that the UK has approved the Pfizer vaccine is indeed very welcome news, and with six other vaccines also in the pipeline this really does mean we have reached a significant point paving the way for mass vaccination worldwide.
A reason to be cheerful? Absolutely; but before we throw away those face masks there is a way to go. This is the first of a line of vaccines that will soon hopefully all receive approval for widespread use.
It is worth pausing for a moment though just to remember how vaccines work. The first one was discovered, as many things are, almost by accident.
It was in 1796 that Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids didn’t catch smallpox if they had previously had cowpox, well one thing led to another and Jenner eventually took some fluid from a cowpox blister and, as the story goes, inoculated a young boy with this fluid who then proved to be immune to smallpox.
What Jenner had managed to do was provoke what we now call an immune response. In other words he was able to get this young boy’s body to prepare itself in case it came into contact with smallpox.
In fact we produce antibodies to fight infection whenever we come into contact with something nasty. This is what our immune response does and it’s a perfectly natural phenomenon, modern vaccines just kick start it so that we have the right antibodies ready and waiting.
So we have a bit of a way to go before we start hanging the flags out. This virus, like most, needs somewhere nice to live and in this case that’s us – all of us.
So as more of us are vaccinated that simply means there are less places for the virus to find a nice cosy home, once enough of us have closed the door to this virus it will find it very hard indeed to continue circulating in the way it has.
So it is for that reason that we should all take advantage of the vaccination when it becomes available. In the meantime avoiding closed-in spaces, close contact, and crowds; the magic three ‘C’s these will all remain important for the time being.
All of us have faced a very challenging year, and for some it has been one of personal suffering and heartache. The Christmas season and New Year is a time to reflect and look forward, and we have something truly amazing to look forward to this year.
The science that has delivered this is nothing short of amazing, some might call it a miracle. We should remember Edward Jenner who inoculated James Phipps the son of his gardener in 1786 to thank for our good fortune.
Dr Marcus Stephan
Health Matters – Medical notes from the Costa del Sol
My views are entirely personal and do not reflect the view or position of any organisation. You should always consult your medical practitioner regarding any concerns that you may have.