The following article first appeared in Westminster Extra.
Since my last column for the Extra, we’ve taken a hugely significant step towards returning to life before COVID. Over 10 million doses of vaccines have now been administered across the UK protecting our most vulnerable from the virus. Five in six people over the age of 80 as well as two thirds of 75-to-79-year old’s have received their first dose of a vaccine. A vaccine also now been offered to every eligible care home resident in England.
The speed at which vaccines have been produced, approved and our now being rolled out is a phenomenal achievement of science and logistics, giving us all hope of a return to normality in the nearer future. Encouraging news this week that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may also be effective at reducing the transmission of the virus increases only the chance of this.
However, any vaccine is only effective if enough the population have been inoculated. To ensure this happens, people need to have confidence in the safety of any COVID vaccine. Personally, I am confident that all of the vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK are safe. I have been doing what I can to ensuring that everyone else feels the same way.
An important part of ensuring confidence in the vaccine is answering the questions and concerns people may have. As an MP, a lot of questions have come to me. To answer them, I have set up a frequently asked questions page on my website. If you have questions yourself, you can find it at: www.nickie.news/vaccine
I have also been engaging with BAME communities locally to help build confidence specifically within them. Vaccine take up across BAME communities is a significant concern. The Royal Society for Public Health recently published a report that found 57% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people said they would take a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 79% of white people. A few weeks ago, I hosted a virtual meeting with representatives from the Bengali community to talk about their concerns. You can watch the meeting online for yourself at: www.nickie.news/vaccinetalk
As well as boosting confidence, I have also been working to ensure the vaccine is accessible to people across the Two Cities. A big part of this has been working to ensure people do not have to travel far to receive their vaccine. Having to travel should not be a barrier to anyone receiving a vaccine. I have been working with and will continue to lobby the local Clinical Commissioning Group to establish more vaccination locations. More locations will hopefully be opening soon, hastening a potential return to normality.
It is important to stress though that we are not there yet. Our NHS is still under immense pressure and will be for some time to come. Protecting it must remain the priority. We must still stay at home for a little longer.