The development of Covid-19 vaccines has not been rushed, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson has said.
“Corners haven’t been cut,” Dr Margaret Harris told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Dr Harris said much of the science needed to develop the vaccines was already there from the time of SARS and MERS epidemics.
The regulatory authorities were kept up to date during the development process so they were able to move swiftly on seeing the final data, she said.
Surveillance systems will be critical to the vaccination process, added Dr Harris. It will be important to monitor that second doses are administered and that any side effects are monitored.
The issue of counterfeit drugs will also need to monitored, she warned. There will need to be secure tracking systems at every level.
Getting accurate information on the vaccine out to the public will be vital and public health measures will be more important than ever as the less virus there is the community the better the vaccine will work.
Meanwhile, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro told Newstalk Breakfast that consideration will have to be given to the anti-vaccine movement.
He said: “We don’t want to push people to do something that they don’t want to do. We have to encourage them and get them to come to us. Everyone has to be convinced.”
The Covid lead of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Mary Favier told Morning Ireland that communications about the vaccine will be really important. There was great anxiety and enthusiasm about the vaccine and people needed to have the full details.
Achieving a 60 per cent level of uptake, which is necessary for herd immunity, was going to be a significant logistical challenge “but we’ll do it,” she said.
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Dr Favier said that while it had not yet been decided what role GPs will play in the vaccination programme, she felt there was a role for GPs as they were already experienced at rolling out vaccines, had knowledge of their patients, had the IT systems to track. “We will be nimble and we can respond.”
GPs would also be vital in helping determine patients with core morbidities and to ensure that patients follow up with their second dose of the vaccine.
Dr Favier warned that dealing with Covid-19 was like running a marathon and while a vaccine had been developed “there’s still four to five miles to run.” She also warned that people could not be forced to have the vaccine. “We have never undertaken mandatory vaccination in this country. As a society we’ve always aimed to be cooperative.”
There will have to be ways to get people to respond and to do it properly, she said.