News of a breakthrough in the search for a coronavirus vaccine has been given a cautious welcome by NHS Shetland’s medical director Kirsty Brightwell.
Preliminary analysis has suggested that one of the vaccines in development stops more than 90 per cent of people getting Covid-19.
Developers Pfizer and BioNTech made the announcement on Monday, with many in the scientific community heralding the development as a significant milestone in the pandemic.
Pfizer has stated that it should be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. For it to be effective two doses are needed, three weeks apart.
Dr Brightwell said it was exciting news but that it may still be some time before life returned to what it was like pre-coronavirus.
“We are quietly optimistic, but nobody wants to put everything on the line and say we are going to go back to normal.”
She cited the example of the flu vaccine, that although effective did not eradicate the disease.
We are quietly optimistic, but nobody wants to put everything on the line and say we are going to go back to normal.”
Dr Brightwell added that not everyone would be vaccinated, with higher-risk groups including the elderly and care home residents likely to be first on the list.
“Although we would be optimistic and hopeful, the idea that we can go back to pre-covid life with a month – nobody would expect that.
“It may mean we can get more services up and running. We might be able to get more sports back up and running. More care for vulnerable groups.
“Maybe those kind of things can start to happen more regularly and with less restriction, but I think this will be slow.”
NHS Shetland is continuing to prepare for the roll-out of a vaccine but has not had confirmation of when that will be available.
Preparations range from ensuring staff are available to give the vaccinations to ensuring there are enough fridges to keep the doses properly chilled.
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston welcomed the “extremely significant news”.
“There is real cause for optimism that we may have reached a turning point in this crisis, one which has impacted so much on all our lives”.
He said the UK government had confirmed it had procured 40 million doses of the new vaccine, with 10 million doses by the end of this year if it is approved.
• A full interview with Dr Brightwell will be included in Friday’s Shetland Times.