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A “very different” message needs to be coming from the government regarding Covid-19 now that there is a “serious problem”, an expert advising on vaccines has said amid rising infection levels.
Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said we cannot “go back to normal now” if we want to avoid lockdowns.
Finn, who said the vaccination programme will not be enough to bring the current coronavirus numbers under control, said he worries that the “wrong message” is being sent out to the public.
“And I worry in fact that the vaccine programme itself is suffering as a consequence of this suggestion that somehow the problem’s gone and we can all go back to normal again, because that will increasingly make people jump to the conclusion that if they’ve not been vaccinated there’s no real need to do it.
“So I do think we need to see a very different kind of message coming from the government now that there is a serious problem, and we all need to continue to contribute to reducing transmission, so that we can get through the winter and the NHS can stay afloat and absolutely we can avoid lockdowns, and the disasters that those bring.
“We all want to avoid that, but we can’t avoid it if we all just go back to normal now,” he told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News.
Prof Finn was asked if a clear way of sending a message to the public would be reimposing mask-wearing and working from home, and he said: “I think this needs to be brought about, whether it can be brought about by clear messaging and communication, I think the British public are by and large a pretty responsible lot and if you give them a clear message of what you want them to do, they will pay attention to that.
“Whether that’s sufficient or whether it actually needs to be done by compelling people, I think that is a decision for the politicians.
“But one way or another, we do need to bring about a situation where there is less transmission of virus going on in the community, and we can’t just rely on the vaccine programme to achieve that.”
Finn said it is important to “stick to the science” when discussing the prospect of extending the Covid-19 booster programme to people under 50 and offering booster jabs at five months rather than six months.
He said: “Just giving more people vaccines, including people who maybe don’t actually need the vaccines yet, could actually run the risk of making things worse rather than better.
“If you boost people before they actually need the vaccine, it is in some senses a waste of vaccine, but also it means that you are immunising them earlier and they may make a smaller response to the vaccine and that response may wear off earlier.
“So I think the idea of just getting more doses indiscriminately into people’s arms is not really necessarily going to solve the problem.
“I think we do need to focus particularly on the most elderly people and do this in a structured and strategic way in order to have the maximum impact.”
Meanwhile, on whether MPs should wear masks in the Commons, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think every workplace is slightly different and people are going to make the decisions that are right for them. I do wear a mask depending on the circumstances and the settings that I’m in.”
Sunak said: “The government guidance is for people to make decisions based on what they think is appropriate for the circumstances they’re in, every workplace is going to be different depending on how many people are there, how long you’re there for, whether you know the people or not and that is all part of the government guidance.”
He added: “I think people are going to make the decisions that they think are the most responsible ones… people will make the right judgments depending on the setting that they’re in.”
Sunak told the programme: “I think actually we should have confidence in the booster rollout.”