Worcester’s MP Robin Walker writes for the Observer..
IT WAS a pleasure to be able to visit the vaccination hub at St Peters Baptist Church last week and thank the friendly, and enthusiastic team at the hub for the brilliant work they have been doing, leading the way in the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine. It is great news that Worcestershire remains one the leading areas in the country for getting vaccines to the priority groups and continues to move faster than the national average.
Having the availability of St Peters Baptist Church as a vaccination centre has further increased our local capacity to deliver vaccines and has built upon the brilliant work of our GP-led teams. The vaccination programme continues at pace and Worcestershire has been leading the way in ensuring the eligible groups receive their vaccine as quickly as possible. I was able to pass on my thanks and that of constituents both to the NHS workers administering the vaccine and the church who have made their building available.
It was impressive to be able to see first-hand the formidable logistical organisation to keep delivering the roll out at such an impressive rate and the success of Worcester in getting ahead of the rest of the country in administering vaccines. What was even more impressive was the evident pride in which the team there take in their work and the great good humour with which they make it a positive experience for all involved.
I am pleased that the Government has achieved its goal to offer a first dose of the vaccine by the 15th of February to all those in the four most vulnerable cohorts, including elderly care home residents, those aged 70 and over, those with conditions that would leave them clinically extremely vulnerable, and frontline health and social care staff.
The NHS has now started to vaccinate the next group, including adults aged 50 and over and people of all ages whose underlying health conditions make them more likely to suffer serious disease, with the aim for everyone who is 50 and over, or at risk, to have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by 15 April, and for everyone aged 18 and over to have been offered a first dose by 31 July.
This timeline shows that there is the light at the end of the tunnel. Although there is still much to be done and we need to remain cautious and vigilant, we can now see the light. I have been contacted by a number of constituents, who are thrilled to have had the vaccine and I know that many more are keen to take up their offer when it comes. I was reassured in my visit that the capacity is in place to both continue the rollout and deliver the second doses when they become due.
This week in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister delivered the one-way roadmap to freedom, with the first step being the return of schools and care home residents to be allowed one named visitor on the 8th of March. Also, from the 29th of March, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, as well as the resumption of outdoor sports, such as football, golf, and tennis. From the 29th of March, there will be no legal requirement to stay at home. Further steps will be taken in April and May and it is vital that we take advantage of the success of the vaccination programme to set an irreversible path to reopening the economy fully.
Despite remaining cautious, and continuing to follow the guidelines, this roadmap out of lockdown represents a step in the right direction and provides clarity for the nation to move forwards.