A FORMER Ermysted’s Grammar School student currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow is urging people to separate fact from fiction in relation to Covid-19 vaccinations and ignore the ‘trolls, snake oil salesmen and conspiracy theorists’.

Dr Daniel Patten, who attended Ermysted’s between 1998 and 2005 and still has family living in and around Skipton, works at the Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham.

Together with fellow scientist Dr Craig Russell, of Aston University, he has written a blog aimed at dispelling myths surrounding the vaccine and addressing people’s fears.

The first phase of the inoculation programme began in Skipton on December 15.

The over-80s deemed to be the most vulnerable were offered the first jabs with a second due to be given three weeks later.

Dr Patten says: “People are understandably afraid of what they don’t understand and I am trying to address this by better informing the general public of the scientific details behind the Covid-19 vaccine.”

Between April and June Dr Patten volunteered in the first ‘Lighthouse Lab’ national Covid-19 testing facility in Milton Keynes.

He had actively looked at being part of the vaccine trial but researchers were prioritising healthcare and frontline workers and older individuals.

Instead he was part of a processing team dealing with swab sampling and testing.

He says: “In the current age of the internet, information can be spread around the world at the click of a button.

“Unfortunately, the same is also true for misinformation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the trolls, snake oil salesmen and conspiracy theorists with an ideal opportunity to peddle their wares and the flood gates have well and truly been opened on their spreading of false information.

“Unsurprisingly there is an excessive abundance of misinformation circulating on social media.

“As scientists, we learn to digest large amounts of information, confirm the reliability of the sources and the validity of that information, and then accurately summarise it to others.

“Here, we make use of our combined experience of nearly 30 years in scientific study, active research and teaching to gather information from reputable sources and peer-reviewed scientific studies to explain some of the science behind vaccines.

“As the Prime Minister announced tighter restrictions to take effect over the festive period and we learned more details about the increased transmissibility of the new variant of the virus, the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 become even more pertinent.

“In order to begin the process of bringing the pandemic to an end, it is important that as many people as possible make the choice to get vaccinated when offered the jab.

“However, there is currently a confusing mass of information, and misinformation so it is understandable that many people are hesitant in their confidence.

“One of the major concerns surrounds the safety of the vaccines, given that they have been developed and approved for use in the space of 10 months, whereas the normal process takes 10-plus years.

“However, the technologies used in many of the Covid-19 vaccines have actually been in development for a number of years already and have simply been repurposed to focus on preventing Covid-19.”

He added that another major concern among the public is the emergence of the new variant of the COVID-19 virus and says the immune response generated by the current vaccine should still remain highly effective against the new strain.

He also acknowledges the two recipients who had allergic reactions to the vaccine and understands this would add to people’s anxiety.

“Vaccines are incredibly safe and instances of this type of reaction are extremely rare,” he said.

“Vaccination is not going to be the silver bullet, but it is definitely going to play a key role in bringing the pandemic to an end.

His blog - ‘Sorting Fact From Fiction’ - is at: https://bit.ly/3pp17JT