Covid: still too early to let our guard down, says GP
A Derry doctor says it is still far too early to ‘let our guard down’ in the battle against Covid-19.
Dr Tom Black’s remarks coincide with confirmation that the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca vaccines is to be cut in Northern Ireland.
Currently, there is a gap of about 12 weeks between the two doses.
The move is intended to offer better protection against the Delta - or Indian - variant, as it is understood the first dose is just 30% effective against it. This is understood to increase to about 80% following a second dose.
It has now been confirmed that the authorities plan to reduce the time frame to a maximum of eight weeks between the first and second dose of the Pfizer/BionTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
Turning to the wider picture, Dr Black, who is the British Medical Association’s chair in NI, says there is definitely “a sense that we are beginning to return to normal with hospitality and services open and people being able to see family and friends again.”
But, he cautioned: “We still have a low level but persistent number of new cases being identified and, with new variants possibly continuing to emerge, it is, in my opinion, too soon to totally let our guard down.
“Everyone still should be social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a test if you have Covid-19 symptoms. We need to be able to identify any clusters or rises in case numbers to tackle them as quickly as possible. Testing is already available in schools for some pupils and that is to be extended for the last few weeks of term and I would encourage parents to test their children over the next few weeks.”
Dr Black urged anyone eligible for a vaccine to get one.
“Vaccination is one of the most important ways we have of slowing the spread of Covid-19 and making sure we can keep numbers as low as possible,” he said.