If the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the greatest crises to have faced any UK Government in history, it stands that delivering the only sustainable way out – mass vaccination – should represent a massive achievement. On Valentine’s Day it was announced that we had successfully hit the Prime Minister’s key vaccine target of administering fifteen million first jabs by the middle of this month. I am immensely proud of our success in reaching this crucial goal.
Of course, the fifteen million figure was not plucked out of thin air but represents the aggregate of our most clinically vulnerable people, those most likely to pay the ultimate price if infected with Coronavirus. Specifically, it covers the four top priority groups to be vaccinated: those over 70; care home residents; health workers and the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’.
As a caveat, this does not mean that literally every single person in the UK within those four groups has had their first jab. Whilst the figure of fifteen million covers all such persons, for many reasons some in each category will not have been vaccinated yet, and in limited cases someone in a lower priority standby list will have taken their place to avoid wastage.
Some might be unwilling – though for anyone in that category we should remember that getting the jab doesn’t just protect us but society as a whole. There will also have been staff and residents in care homes not given the vaccine because their site had a live infection outbreak at the time. Some will have been ill at the time they were due to receive their jab. Others will simply not have been contacted, for good reason such as out of date details – though I’m pleased to say when I visited the vaccination hub at Hardwicke House in Cornard on Friday they were going ‘socially distanced door to door’ to find such cases.
The point is we are making tremendous progress. Many people reading this article will have received the vaccine, soon some will even have had the second dose. And at the same time, thanks to the huge effort nearly all of us have made in not being complacent but continuing to follow social distancing rules, the rate of infection is now looking more promising. I hope we are reaching the point where we each know lots of people who have been vaccinated recently, but not many who have tested positive.
For this, we should all be profoundly grateful to those on our health frontline. I do appreciate the extent to which many hospital staff are simply shattered. Workwise, this has been toughest of all for them. But for several weeks now we’ve also had a new force joining the Covid-19 fightback: our vaccinators, including clinicians and volunteers.
I’ve visited all five vaccine hubs in South Suffolk – GP centres in Hadleigh, East Bergholt, Lavenham and Cornard, together with Long Melford pharmacy. I’ve been so impressed at the effort on display, including from those giving up their free time to assist the smooth flow of vaccine delivery, even when it’s been snowing and extremely cold.
Yet for all this brilliant effort the journey is far from over. Next week in Parliament the Prime Minister should update us on his plans for the next phase of lockdown. The week after that is the Budget, and the economic impact of lockdown remains profound. I sincerely hope that as a result of our vaccine success and ‘stay at home’ discipline, we will soon start to see the prospect of schools reopening, followed by further easing on social and commercial life. We should remain cautious, but hopeful.
Published by the Suffolk Free Press.