England’s deputy chief medical officer has effectively ruled out safety issues with the coronavirus vaccines being used in the UK, saying so many people have now had the jab that it would be “pretty obvious” if it caused adverse reactions.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam also played down the threat from the South African variant of the disease in the UK, saying that 90 per cent of cases now involve the strain first identified in Kent.
Comparing the two variants to hot and cold water taps on a bath, he said that as long as one was flowing hard, the other would have little impact.
Answering questions from viewers on the BBC News Channel and Asian Channel, Prof Van-Tam sought to reassure people from black and minority ethnic (Name)backgrounds that they were at no risk from taking the vaccine, declaring that coronavirus “does not discriminate”.
And he dismissed rumours that the vaccine could affect fertility as “a nasty, pernicious scare story” which was “completely, utterly groundless”.
Prof Van-Tam urged Britons to trust reliable medical sources and not social media for information about the pandemic.
“We’re always concerned when we get disinformation and things that are just patently wrong and patently misleading and designed to frighten people and damage their confidence in what we are doing,” he said.
“If my central heating system breaks down, I’m going to call the heating engineer to explain to me what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed… I’m not going to ask a brain surgeon.
“Why would you go to those kinds of sources of information, when you have really very readily accessible good sources from trusted voices in the NHS?”
Challenged over whether there could be any threat to health from taking the Covid-19 vaccine, particularly among BAME people, he replied: “If you have a vaccine … and you think you’ve had some kind of reaction to it or a side effect, you can report that on the yellow card system. That’s being done every single day spontaneously by the public in relation to the Covid-19 vaccines that we’ve deployed.
“We are well over the 12 million mark now in terms of vaccines we’ve deployed. We’re getting to a point where, if we were going to see any kind of safety signal, it would be pretty obvious by now.”
Prof Van-Tam said that studies which have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa related only to mild cases of Covid among younger people and had little bearing on the key issue of serious illness and deaths.
The South African variant remains “far from dominant” in the UK, with fewer than 200 cases discovered, he said.
Comparing it to the Kent variant, he said: “If you are running a bath and you have got the hot water tap on and you add in a very small amount of cold water, so the cold tap is running as well but at really a very low volume, your bath water is basically going to remain hot,.
“It’s only if that cold tap was gushing much more than the hot tap, the cold water would take over.
“That’s probably the best analogy I can give you at the moment. There are no signs that South African variant is running at that speed at the moment and therefore I don’t frame it as something that is going to be a dominant issue in the next few months.”