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Editor's Viewpoint

Light at end of the Covid tunnel at last



Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Health Minister Robin Swann

The notion that the beginning of the end of the battle against Covid-19 is in sight became more realistic yesterday as the Health Minister, Robin Swann, detailed the plans for rolling out a mass vaccination programme.

Given the caveat that nothing can happen until any of the three front-running vaccines are given approval, it is clear that considerable preparatory work has been undertaken for vaccinations to begin as early as next month.

The development of promising vaccines is an astonishing scientific feat, even allowing for the fact that Covid-19 is one of a group of infectious diseases already well-known to virologists.

Northern Ireland is to get four million doses of vaccine, more than enough to give every person, very young children excepted, two injections.

Mr Swann detailed how the roll-out would take place: residents and staff in care homes first, followed by NHS workers, the over-80s and then in descending age order, but also giving some priority to those with underlying health problems.

That is a sensible programme, but it will be a mammoth logistical undertaking and we could be well into next year before the majority of people are vaccinated.

It is also important that a public health programme is promoted to encourage uptake of the vaccines, given the amount of misinformation floating about in cyberspace.

The public needs to have confidence that the vaccines are both safe and effective, and the regulators need to begin the campaign to ensure that message gets across.

Mr Swann was also keen to inject a dose of realism yesterday, and he urged people to continue to follow the advice on avoiding getting the disease or spreading it. It will be several months, at best, before Covid-19 is fully on the retreat.

At this juncture, Mr Swann is due praise for his work during the pandemic. He has always sought to be a voice of reason and common sense.

It should also be remembered that he took a job which Sinn Fein and the DUP snubbed, yet members of both parties have sniped at Mr Swann from the sidelines. Both parties previously held the health portfolio, so they must realise what a daunting job it is.

Mr Swann deserves to be treated better. His consistent message has found a resonance with most people and he is right, even now, to emphasise that these are critical weeks in the fight against Covid-19.

We can see the light of hope, but it is still at the other end of the tunnel.

Belfast Telegraph