SHARON HODGSON: We must work internationally to stop the spread of Covid-19
I would like to take the time to express my thanks for the hard work and dedication of our country’s NHS staff, like those working hard at the Nightingale vaccination hub, and the wider scientific community for the vaccination efforts that are saving lives this winter. It is because of these heroes that life has been allowed to return to some sense of normality.
Unfortunately, the crisis is not yet over, and vaccines remain the key defence against another wave of COVID-19 combined with annual flu. According to the ONS, of the 51,281 deaths involving Covid in England between 2 January and 2 July 2021, only 640 (1.2%) were people who had received both vaccine doses. Many of these deaths occurred before 21 days following vaccinations.
I encourage everyone that is eligible to book their flu and COVID booster jabs this winter, to ensure that people who are vulnerable stay safe, community transmission decreases, and 2022 gets off to a much better start than 2021.
This winter we must also contend with a new variant, Omicron. While the vaccine is still effective, the fact that mutations such as this have managed to arise is alarming. This has occurred largely because the uptake of vaccines in developing countries has been significantly slower than wealthier countries. The UK Government could’ve taken more measures to avoid this. Along with consecutive cuts to UK foreign aid, many developed countries have been hoarding vaccines that would otherwise go to the developing world.
As former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it, “we cannot be safe until everybody's safe, and I'm afraid that everybody will live in fear of this disease until nobody lives in fear of this disease in any part of the world." Indeed, nearly 90% of all vaccines have gone to the G20 countries and only 10% have been made available to the other 170 countries. South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, had at the time only administered 42.1 doses per every 100 people. This compares to the UK’s 168.3 per 100.
The only way to solve this crisis is if we work internationally to stop the spread, whilst protecting our loved ones and avoiding another lockdown. This is something the Labour party would commit to, instead of walking around hospitals mask-less (against the wishes of NHS staff) and throwing Christmas parties while the rest of the country is locked down. The Government has shown a blatant disregard for their own rules throughout the pandemic (who can forget Barnard Castle?). It's one rule for them and another for everyone else. Something must change.
I wish everyone a safe festive season and please check if you’re eligible for a flu or COVID booster jab, especially if you plan on seeing loved ones. You can find out more and book your vaccinations here: nhs.uk/wintervaccinations