I have to accept that recent days have not been easy ones for us as a Government, and particularly so for the Prime Minister – who, lest we forget, became a father of a healthy young baby girl amongst all the other matters reported in the press. But for all the difficult issues facing us, we have a massive need for the PM’s single biggest belief, often referred to as ‘boosterism’. This idea of ‘boosterism’ has generally been characterised as an optimistic belief in Britain’s future, particularly if we can empower communities through better infrastructure, broadband etc.
But there is now a massive need for boosterism of the most literal sort. We face a new variant of Covid that is now very obviously able to spread around society at a much greater pace than its predecessor. The implications of this could be stark, and a total mobilisation of booster vaccine capability is required, driven by the PM from the centre and with all of us playing our part by getting boosted and encouraging everyone we know to do the same.
I reflect on what I wrote in this column in May: “Whilst the virus is rampant abroad, especially in developing nations, we will remain vulnerable to potential new variants that could even have the ability to circumvent our vaccine shield. We shouldn’t panic overly about that possibility, not least as boosters can be deployed later in the year”.
I stand by those words: we “shouldn’t panic”, but we do need to act in several ways if we are to cope with what looks like a rapidly spiralling infection rate. By far the most important part is about the booster jab campaign, but I fear we do need a range of additional precautionary measures. The reason for this is that, even if (as I sincerely hope), Omicron turns out to be milder than other variants, with such extraordinary transmissibility whatever small percentage of the infected still need serious medical treatment could equate to a very large number, putting extraordinary pressure on the NHS, with all that implies for treating those with other serious conditions.
I should stress that the latest steps, e.g. on mask wearing and showing proof of a negative test or having been vaccinated, are precautionary measures. As regular readers may be aware, I am no enthusiast for ‘locking down’, far from it. I strongly supported the lifting of restrictions in the summer, but as I said in May, the lingering risk of a new variant evading the vaccine shield has never disappeared. That is unquestionably the position we are in, as latest evidence suggests that two jabs offer insufficient protection. The good news, however, is that a third booster jab has been found to offer significant defence.
The Prime Minister has therefore announced an Emergency Boost appeal to get all eligible adults boosted by the end of December, and I would strongly encourage all of my constituents to either attend walk-in vaccination centres or book their jab as soon as possible. Inevitably, trying to deliver such a scale of jabs will come with friction and strain – on testing capacity; and on vaccination capacity.
But we have already made great strides boosting the most vulnerable, and we should not underestimate the progress we have made, particularly locally. Nevertheless, the NHS will need to match its best vaccination day and then beat it day on day. To achieve this, some appointments may need to be postponed and 42 military planning teams will be deployed across every region, setting up additional vaccine sites and mobile units, extending opening hours so clinics are open 7 days a week.
I had my own booster jab on Saturday at St Mary’s Church, Hadleigh. The experience was very professionally and painlessly delivered, and I pay tribute to the NHS staff and volunteers on site doing their bit in the battle to beat Omicron.
In these worrying times it can be difficult to forget just how far we have come in our fight against this deadly virus. This time last year the Government had to take arguably the most difficult decision of all, to significantly restrict the activities of citizens in the festive period. I sincerely hope such measures will not be needed again, but the good news is that we now have so much more resistance from the vaccine to aid our fight, especially when it’s topped up by the booster. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the very best for 2022.
Published by the Suffolk Free Press.