'No one should be left out': Sunderland councillors back Vaccines for All campaign
City councillors have backed a national campaign calling on the Government to ensure the Covid-19 vaccine is accessible to everyone.
The ‘Vaccines for All’ campaign seeks to ensure safe access to the jab for any person, regardless of immigration status, ID or proof of address.
A motion on the issue was discussed at a recent full meeting of Sunderland City Council which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.
This included backing calls for the Government to ensure the vaccine “works for everyone” and to seek to address the “specific barriers” faced by marginalised groups, including migrant communities, people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
The motion also referenced “longstanding and entrenched barriers to healthcare”, with an example including migrants being deterred from seeking medical care over fears their data could be shared with the Home Office.
Councillors heard more than 300 organisations, including councils, health bodies, charities, GP surgeries and trade unions, had already backed the Vaccines for All campaign.
Councillor Kelly Chequer, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Healthy City, introduced the vaccine motion to full council on Wednesday (March 24).
She said the campaign aimed to “directly address fear and mistrust and begin to restore the confidence in the NHS for communities that have previously been excluded from care.”
However opposition Conservative councillors proposed an amendment to the motion, which was described as a ‘safety first approach.’
Concerns included the risk of nurses being asked to administer vaccines without knowing a patient’s medical history and other issues such as language barriers.
Councillor Antony Mullen, Conservative group leader, said the amendment to the motion would “add safeguards” for nurses and the council’s reputation, in the event that a professional body opposes the Vaccines for All campaign at a later stage.
Cllr Chequer, who is also an NHS nurse, said that the original motion was not suggesting that medical professionals should put themselves in a position or do anything which goes against their professional code, standards or ethics.
Despite describing the Conservative amendment as “unnecessary,” she said the Labour group would support it.
Cllr Chequer explained: “Clearly this [motion] isn’t about anything other than enabling the vulnerable in our society to have equitable access to the vaccine.
“The amendment I think takes away from some of that, however the main motion I think remains relevant, therefore for that reason I’m going to suggest that we support this [amendment] if it means that we get across the council, all parties signing up for this.
“Because this is a really big thing for us to do as a council, to show our commitment to everybody in our city and all communities that we want them all to have access to the vaccine.”
Councillors heard that the Sunderland vaccination programme had already been successful in targeting hard to reach groups by coordinating pop-up vaccination clinics.
Labour councillor Dianne Snowdon, who recently returned to the NHS to work as a Covid-19 vaccinator at the Nightingale Hospital North East, said everyone should be able to access the jab.
“I fully support the Vaccines for All campaign, I have witnessed first hand the joy and relief and tears that residents have shared when they have been vaccinated,” she added.
“No one should be left out.
"Without this vaccine being accessible to everyone it does not protect us all, we all need to be vaccinated.”
The amended motion received support from all political groups.