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covid concern 'We'd be foolish to stop adhering to Covid-19 restrictions now that the vaccine has arrived' - Prof Luke O'Neill

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Luke O'Neill

Luke O'Neill

Luke O'Neill

TOP immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill described the arrival of the vaccine in Ireland yesterday as “a historic day.”

However, he warned that we should all strictly observe the restrictions and the hygiene rules for the foreseeable future.

“Stick with the plan because we’d be foolish at this stage not to do so, now that we’ve seen the vaccine has arrived in the country,” Prof O’Neill told the Sunday World.

“The best analogy is that it’s a bit like you get shot on November 11 in 1918 just before the war is ending.

“It’s also a bit like horse racing where you can see the finish line and you don’t want to fall at the last fence from fatigue.

“We’re all tired, but you’ve got to get that extra bit of strength into your body to run the last mile of the marathon.”

Nevertheless, Prof O’Neill said the vaccine will certainly lead to brighter days and has given us optimism this Christmas.

“Can you imagine if the vaccine wasn’t here over Christmas? Good god it would be miserable,” he says.

“Let’s say that against all odds it hadn’t worked, can you imagine what we’d be like now? It would be terrible, so we were given a lucky break with this one. Whoever the gods are, if you believe in the gods, they gave us a bit of break with this because it’s working. Without that we’d have a much more miserable Christmas.

“It’s a great moment. It’s historic, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve been waiting for this for weeks and now all over Europe every country has got its doses today.

“Every European country got 10,000 doses as a Christmas present, as a starter to give people hope. Then they will ramp up supply hugely. For Ireland, 40,000 doses a week will be coming in in January.

“Looking back, we were predicting March for this, so getting it three months ahead is tremendous. There were uncertainties about the vaccines, we kept using the phrase ‘cautious optimism’ just in case, so we were all immediately relieved when we got the first Pfizer results that it was working at 90 per cent.

“Now the fact that it’s here before the end of the year is tremendous news altogether.”

Meanwhile, chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan welcomed the delivery of the first batch of the Pfizer vaccine today, but urged the public to continue to conform with public health measures.

“While today is a positive day with the arrival of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine (Comirnaty), it does not mean that we can relax our adherence to public health measures," he said.

“We must continue to stay at home, avoid social contact where possible, avoid visiting friends and family and not have visitors to our homes. Our adherence to public health advice will remain our best defence against this disease and help us protect our vulnerable loved ones from the effects of Covid-19.”

HSE chief executive Paul Reid this morning described the first delivery as a “momentous day” for the country.

He tweeted: “An early morning start to a momentous day. Heading off to take receipt of the first delivery of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for the HSE. There will be better days ahead for sure. For now, #StaySafe.”

The vaccine is to be supplied to the most vulnerable in society first, such as nursing home residents.

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