Friday 10th September 2021
Recognising that information overload and fatigue are a big part of this pandemic, I ask your forbearance. In the coming weeks there is going to be a considerable number of communications. As far as possible we will be targeting those for whom the information is most relevant and flagging key messages through these updates. In addition to direct emails from Year Leaders and line managers, a reminder that the most up to date advice is on the website (https://www.rvc.ac.uk/about/coronavirus) and course announcements pages on LEARN for students with some additional information for staff on the intranet. Keeping up with the changes can be a challenge, so please do be alert to communications from us.
If we are to get through the next term and into 2022, we are going to have to remain committed to the principles we established early on, protecting each other but trying to get back to a more normal social setting. I cannot guess what Government might advise in the coming weeks, but there was some very clear steer from the Secretary of State earlier this week. We will be doing things in a staged way through the first term and adapting what we do in response to infection rates and public health advice. Some of the decisions we have to make with regard to things like timetabling have to be made several months in advance and, with precautionary principle in mind, actions can sometimes lag prevailing advice. Our aim is to keep everyone as safe as possible as we all return to campus.
All that said, there are some common-sense fundamentals which apply at work or home.
- Get vaccinated, unless exempt. Thank you to all those who have responded to our surveys as it does look like we have very good coverage.
- Wear a mask wherever you cannot observe a 1M social distance from those around you. It frankly doesn’t matter where – inside or outside, teaching space or social space – if you are in a crowded space or within 1M of others of unknown infection/vaccinal status, you should wear a mask unless eating or drinking.
- Keep testing.
- Self-isolate when necessary.
One final point today on vaccination. The apparent unfortunate contradiction between the those looking specifically at vaccination and those responsible for overall population health has clouded the water with regards to what is best. Spoiler alert - there is no best, it is about balance and the common good.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not recommended vaccination for school children because the health benefit to the individual child is not significant, i.e., they may get infected but do not get particularly ill. That is fair enough when we look at protecting the individual – we get vaccinated against tetanus not to stop an epidemic of tetanus but to protect the recipient of the vaccine. The JCVI was only looking at the individual.
However, in epidemics where an infection is contagious and passes from one person to another, things are different – here, although we do vaccinate to protect vulnerable individuals, we are also vaccinating to stop the spread of the disease. In other words, although children may not be particularly ill if they become infected, they can still infect others who would become ill. (For those who remember the earlier blogs on the R number, infected children contribute to keeping that R number above 1 and the pandemic going.) And that is why some countries are vaccinating down to 12 years of age and our own CMOs are most likely arguing the same as they try to protect the whole population, not just the individual.
Enough for a Friday. Have a good weekend.