With the announcement of a second Covid-19 vaccine from the US showing excellent early results (Moderna claims its vaccine to be 95% effective), it has been another week for cautious optimism about next year.

As I suggested last week, keep an eye on further announcements, especially from Oxford and Imperial. I suspect we are moving towards a spring where there will be a selection of vaccines available, each of more use to different target groups and with varying ease of supply and delivery. For a really easy-to-watch summary of where we are, I recommend a recent RSM online interview with Sir Jeremy Farrar, Sage member and boss at the Wellcome Trust, that can be viewed below:


As an aside, any trainee optometrists planning to take their OSCEs in January might like to let off some steam afterwards and visit the Wellcome Collection across the road from the exam centre – well worth the visit.

One cloud on my sunny horizon is the estimated quarter of UK adults who view vaccines with suspicion. This may prove to be quite a challenge if future infection is to be halted. Do not underestimate the power of the nocebo effect, something I have mentioned before and for which there is increasing evidence of its significance.

If a patient genuinely believes a treatment or drug will cause harm, they may actually suffer symptoms even when these are not caused by the treatment. A sort of reverse placebo effect. An informative paper out this week, in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown how 90% of the many patients who cease use of statins due to side effects (estimated at around a fifth of takers) continue to suffer their symptoms if switched to a placebo. In the US, statins are routinely prescribed by optometrists.

ECPs will be in the frontline for educating patients about the benefits of vaccination.