View from Westminster: Vaccine will save yourself and others, says Harriet Harman

News Desk (20 January, 2021)

Like everyone who’s being vaccinated I’ve breathed a big sigh of relief. I’ve had it for myself but for everyone else too.

31615Harriet Harman

The vaccination against COVID is the only way out of this pandemic. It’s nothing short of a miracle that scientists around the world, working day and night, have created a vaccine that can keep us safe from this deadly disease.

It’s already killed over 80,000 people so there’s no time to waste. It’s right that the necessary rigorous trials and tests on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness were accelerated.

It is so important that the NHS ordered the vaccine well in advance so that we can be as sure as possible that we will have enough supplies to go round. We need as many people as possible to get the vaccine in order to save the lives of those vaccinated and also to stop the disease spreading.

The virus spreads by making those with the disease highly infectious including by coughing. The point about having the vaccine is not just to protect you, but to stop you passing on the disease to someone else, possibly someone who is more at risk because they are older or have health problems.

People who refuse to have the vaccine because they think it won’t affect them or because they think COVID’s no worse than a bad cold are risking their health.

But while people can take risks with their own health it’s not right to risk the health of others. Someone who only gets COVID mildly can pass it on to someone it kills.

And someone who refuses the vaccination and then gets badly ill will take up a hospital bed which could be needed for a cancer patient.

Public health measures need us all individually to do something in order to make the whole community safer.

But there are some people who worry that the vaccine isn’t safe, as it was invented and approved so quickly, and so are hesitant about taking it up.

The vaccine has gone through exactly the same tests and trials as all previous vaccines so there’s no reason to fear.

The scientists and medical experts are unanimous on this and if we’re ready to take their word for it on drugs like paracetamol and other vaccinations like polio, I think there’s no reason to mistrust them on this.

But for those people who are still worried, Southwark Councillor Evelyn Akoto who’s responsible for Public Health in our borough is working to address this.

She’s particularly focussing on answering the questions of the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

She’s working with Kings College Hospital, with councillors in Lambeth and Lewisham as well as the many black nurses and doctors who are providing care locally and who have had no hesitation in having the vaccine.

I strongly back her work because if BAME people are less likely to have the vaccine they will be more likely to face the potentially deadly health consequences of getting COVID and that will widen yet further the dreadful health inequality which sees BAME people suffer worse health.

I’m over 70 and in the top four priority groups for the vaccine. I’ve been called for the jab and had no hesitation in having it. I want the awful death toll to end, for children to be back in schools, work-places to open up, people to be able to see their families and businesses to be back on their feet.

The only way that can happen is for us all to be vaccinated. Like everyone who’s being vaccinated I’ve breathed a big sigh of relief. I’ve had it for myself but for everyone else too.

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