Getting your COVID-19 vaccination does not mean you can liberate yourself from lockdown or other restrictions.
That is the warning from England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who says the millions of people who have received their jab must still obey social-distancing rules.
Those who refuse risk prolonging the pandemic and its associated restrictions, he said, adding that they could also be putting at risk those who are vulnerable but further down the priority list.
Some 478,248 people received a vaccine dose on Saturday, meaning 5.8 million people have had the first of two required doses.
But Prof Van-Tam said that, while the vaccination can prevent serious illness, it is not yet known if it prevents transmission of the coronavirus.
He wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: “Even after you have had both doses of the vaccine you may still give COVID to someone else and the chains of transmission will then continue.
“If you change your behaviour you could still be spreading the virus, keeping the number of cases high and putting others in danger who also need their vaccine but are further down the queue.
“Regardless of whether someone has had their vaccination or not, it is vital that everyone follows the national restrictions and public health advice, as protection takes up to three weeks to kick in and we don’t yet know the impact of vaccines on transmission.
“The vaccine has brought considerable hope and we are in the final furlong of the pandemic but for now, vaccinated or not, we still have to follow the guidance for a bit longer.”
Prof Van-Tam also repeated the reasoning between the government’s vaccine strategy following growing concerns from some medical experts about the decision to extend the gap between the first and second doses to 12 weeks.
The British Medical Association has called for a re-think of the policy, saying the Pfizer vaccine is recommended with a gap of six weeks between doses.
Prof Van-Tam said the government’s aim was to get a first dose to as many people as possible, meaning that more people would have at least some protection rather than fewer people having stronger protection.
He said: “But what none of these (who ask reasonable questions) will tell me is: who on the at-risk list should suffer slower access to their first dose so that someone else who’s already had one dose (and therefore most of the protection) can get a second?”
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to rule out a return to the classroom for pupils after the February half-term break.
The Sunday Times reported that parents should be prepared for a long period of home-schooling, possibly until after the Easter holidays.
Ministers are also expected to meet this week to discuss a proposal to require UK arrivals to pay for quarantine in a designated hotel for 10 days, similar to schemes that operate in Australia and New Zealand.
Government sources say while complete closure of the border is not the likely outcome of the talks, it is still an option.
From Monday, a further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England, including one at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which featured in the hit TV series Peaky Blinders.
The new vaccination centres will be focusing on offering jabs to health and social care staff, before opening their doors to other priority patients.
Moves are also being made to provide thousands of rapid turnaround tests to businesses so workers with no coronavirus symptoms can be tested.
The tests will be aimed at those who cannot work from home, such as those in the food, manufacturing, energy, retail, transport and military sectors.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Lateral flow tests have already been hugely successful in finding positive cases we would not otherwise find and I encourage employers and workers to take this offer up to help protect essential services and businesses.”
On Saturday, the UK recorded another 1,348 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,552 cases, according to the latest government figures.
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