SAGE experts fear Brits could break Covid rules en masse after getting vaccine
The vaccine is good news – but SAGE experts are worried people will slack off too soon (Image: REUTERS)
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Brits could abandon Covid safety rules in their droves after getting a vaccine, government advisors fear.
SAGE experts are calling for a PR campaign to keep people washing their hands, wearing masks, obeying quarantine and staying two metres apart even after they have the jab.
And in an apparent swipe at Boris Johnson, they say “distrusted political figures” should not lead the media drive – with the job instead going to doctors, other medics, faith leaders, firms and schools.
The UK is aiming to give 15million vulnerable people their first vaccine dose by February 15 – a move it’s claimed would prevent 88% of potential deaths.
But while getting the vaccine makes you less likely to get sick, it’s not yet known if it will stop you passing coronavirus to other people around you.
They say "distrusted political figures" should stay well away from it
(Image: Getty Images)
Experts fear the virus could then let rip through the younger population if they feel less at risk.
Boris Johnson has said he wants a “gradual unwrapping” of lockdown rules from mid-February but has warned they will not end all at once.
And Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned there could even be some restrictions next winter.
The warning came from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), a SAGE sub-group.
In its paper on December 17, published today, SPI-B said an “unintended consequence” of vaccination could be “reduced adherence” to safety measures.
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A survey found 29% of people said they would adhere to the rules less strictly once they got the vaccine and 11% would “probably no longer follow the rules”.
Those most likely to follow the rules less strictly were aged 18 to 24, SPI-B said.
“Adherence might decline if people feel less of a need for protection, or the rules and guidance seem less salient to them as attention focuses more on the vaccine,” SPI-B warned.
This could then be eroded further if encouraged by society – for instance if bars put up signs saying "all our staff are vaccinated’.
"Although we do not have any direct empirical evidence, if reduction in adherence in some groups becomes normative, this may further undermine efforts to promote adherence," SPI-B said.
The group added: “Continuing with protective behaviours irrespective of vaccination is important for improving population health now and in the future.”
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SPI-B recommended a major PR campaign to ensure the public know there is still a risk to society, even after they are vaccinated.
The experts said this should be “communicated by trusted sources who are believed to have knowledge and are distanced from distrusted political figures.
“Such people include local medical professionals, local public health officers, community champions, community and faith leaders, employers, schools/FE/universities.”
It comes after Boris Johnson’s own father claimed he’d be “fancy free” after getting his second dose of the Pfizer jab.
Stanley Johnson, 80, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “One thing [that’s] not quite clear to me is what rules will apply.
“Do we have a get out of jail free card… I think probably not. I think the rules will still have to be locked down even though we've notionally been released.”
Boris Johnson’s own father claimed he’d be “fancy free” after getting his second dose
His comments were immediately clarified by GMB host Kate Garraway.
No10 have made clear the new national lockdown applies to everyone in England, regardless of whether they have had a jab – and there will not be “immunity passports” with different sets of rules for the vaccinated.