All the arguments against compulsory vaccination are overshadowed by the Indian variant of the virus now amongst us. If the Government is to fulfil its primary duty of keeping us safe, it must act decisively.
Some ‘vaccine hesitant’, as they are called, might be unconcerned if ‘no jab’ means no travel or other freedoms.
Perhaps those who continue to refuse the vaccine should not be afforded the privilege of medical care should they fall sick from the virus. This sounds draconian, but Boris Johnson’s slide into customary shilly-shallying will cost yet more lives and put the brakes on economic recovery.
What is he waiting for? His party has emerged triumphant from local elections and the Hartlepool by-election a few short weeks ago. With a mandate of such magnitude, he should not be afraid of making decisions which may be unpopular, but are – on balance – for the good of the country.
The point of a vaccine, as Sir Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust and Sage committee member, put it earlier this week, is to achieve herd immunity. Whilst we were approaching that state before the Indian variant kicked in, this achievement now hangs in the balance.
There are clear scientific reasons why and they should be respected. It would be helpful if the Government communications team could work tirelessly to transmit detail to the vaccine hesitant. Many in this category, according to research by the Office of National Statistics, rely on social media for their news.
The ‘original’ Covid-19 strain, which originated in Wuhan, had an R of 3. This meant that if one person contracted it and came into contact with three others, they probably would catch the virus too and so the pandemic spread.
However, the Indian variant has, perhaps, an R of 6, scientists think. This means that it could, potentially, spread twice as fast. Hence the race is on; a much higher number of UK residents need to be injected or infect before herd immunity can be restored.
And whilst no vaccine offers complete protection, the vaccine roll-out does significantly reduce the risk of transmission and serious illness and mortality.
As the aforementioned Sir Jeremy Farrar put it earlier this week, the vaccines “decouple” deaths from cases.
What’s the alternative? Offer a sympathetic nod to those who make excuses and stand by as the Government in Westminster draws up plans for the re-introduction of the punitive tier system of local lockdowns?
I’m sorry if this sounds selfish, but I don’t want to go back to that. And neither do thousands of businesses and companies across the North of England where pockets of this new variant are rife.
I don’t want my Year 10 daughter to be forced to home-school again with her GCSEs on the horizon and I don’t want her brother’s future to be blighted as he leaves college to seek an apprenticeship this summer.
I say all this as a former vaccine refusenik. It took me two months to be persuaded to submit to the jab, so I can talk about trepidation with some understanding. I admit that I had serious reservations.
Chief of these was the lack of research into possible side effects. I have a blood disorder, largely asymptomatic, but it does make me more prone to clotting.
I also felt that not enough time had been spent considering any long-term side effects of Covid jabs. The fact that pregnant women and those under the age of 18 are not yet allowed the vaccination did not fill me with confidence.
And a bit of my reasoning, I admit, was totally unreasonable. I wanted no part of the Prime Minister’s triumphalism as he heralded the UK’s vaccine programme as the envy of the world, not whilst he refused to give nurses a proper pay rise.
A bit of my conscience is still aggrieved at that. However, life is series of checks and balances. And on balance, with a hefty dose of persuasion from my husband, classed as vulnerable because he has rheumatoid arthritis, I acquiesced.
That was two months ago now and apart from a slightly sore arm for a few days, I’ve had no noticeable repercussions. My second jab is booked for June 13. I seek no moral high ground, just a way forward. Mr Johnson should commit to the same, and this time follow the science.
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