The Pigeon – February 2021

After an incredibly difficult year for everyone in 2020, the news that came over Christmas and the New Year of the approval of the game-changing Oxford Astrozeneca vaccine and its subsequent rollout have offered hope to us all.

We will always be indebted to the researchers, volunteers and NHS professionals who have worked at incredible pace to bring us where we are today – at the start of the national vaccination programme. But we now find ourselves with a new set of challenges.  The Covid-19 vaccination programme will be the most complex task ever undertaken by our NHS, and it is vital that this Tory Government – which has been found wanting at so many points during this pandemic – do not let down the incredible NHS staff who continue to go above and beyond to tackle Coronavirus.

As a former NHS worker myself, I know just how difficult a logistical task this vaccination programme will be.  But I also know just how dedicated a workforce the NHS has.  In Bristol, we’ve already seen new groupings of GPs coming together in Primary Care Networks to contact and vaccinate people as quickly as possible.  And it’s not just NHS staff who are going above and beyond – as demonstrated by the speed with which Ashton Gate Stadium was transformed into a vaccination hub for the region.

But the dedicated workforce behind that transformation were initially let down by a lack of clarity from the Government on expectations and supply of vaccines.  And we’ve seen this scene repeated across England, with GPs not given enough information with regards to how far down the priority list for vaccinations they are going to be expected to go, and where people are going to be vaccinated.  Conflicting Government announcements regarding the weekly vaccination target and the provision of 24 hour vaccinations only served to confuse people further.

This vaccination programme is the most important Governmental undertaking in living memory.  And like everyone in the UK – regardless of political affiliation – I want more than anything for the Government to make a fantastic success of it.  To ensure that is the case, they need to give greater clarity to those involved in the rollout – on expectations, on supply, and on plans for the prioritisation of those groups not yet confirmed – such as teachers and police officers.

By staying home and obeying the lockdown rules, we have all played our part in tackling this terrible virus.  And our key workers have done extraordinary things – putting their lives on the line and making enormous sacrifices to keep us all safe, fed and connected.  Now the Government must fulfill their part of the bargain, and ensure a swift and seamless rollout of the vaccine across Bristol and the nation.  Only then can we look to the future and begin to rebuild our country.