The UK’s vaccination programme has been a cause for celebration in nearly a year of bleakness and mourning.
Monday 15th February saw the UK reach the significant milestone of 15 million people vaccinated, this encompassing the top four priority groups.
A ‘make do and mend’ attitude of plucky British-ness has surrounded the vaccination programme.
As everything from sports stadiums to gothic cathedrals have been used as vaccination centres.
While health workers have “jabbed like there’s no tomorrow”, in the words of PM Boris Johnson.
Manchester has also seen success in the vaccine rollout – as of 8th February, 78,000 have received their first dose. A figure that continues to rise.
All of Manchester’s care home residents have also received a Covid jab.
It’s a bold programme which has been praised universally by Manchester MPs.
Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, said: “The vaccination rollout on my patch has been a real success story. Both Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group and Stockport Clinical Commissioning Group are cracking on at pace.
“This is fantastic news for the most vulnerable in Tameside and Stockport and finally there’s some light at the end of this very long tunnel.”
The North of England has been hit disproportionately hardest by the pandemic.
Existing economic and social inequalities have been exacerbated, leaving those in poverty grimly exposed to the virus.
A recent report by the Northern Health Science Alliance concluded 57.7 more people per 100,000 died in the Northern Powerhouse region than elsewhere between March and July 2020.
Gwynne added: “We know COVID disproportionately impacts on the poorest, the hardest, often because they live in overcrowded conditions and have to use public transport more and tend to do close-contact jobs.
“It makes sense to target those at risk of spreading transmission. But the top priority has to be to curtail avoidable deaths.”
The UK now holds the stark record for highest death rate of any major nation in the G20.
Reports suggest some deaths could have been avoided. Many blaming fingers are pointing to many different places. Most, however, seem to point to Westminster.
“I’m absolutely horrified by the UK’s death rate from COVID. It’s easy to look back and be critical but I’ve long believed the strategy as we lifted Lockdown 1 was the wrong one.
“Lockdowns merely suppress the virus transmission while we are all holed-up”, Gwynne said.
Gwynne believes a “hyper localised” approach of doorstep testing and more robust financial and social support for struggling families should have been implemented from the start.
Adding: “Instead we had a botched national test and trace system that cost a fortune and didn’t work, while we were all encouraged to ‘eat out to help out’ merely recirculating the suppressed virus once again.
“Ultimately that’s led to more people dying in this wave than during the first wave, and that was massively avoidable.”
With the continued success of the vaccine rollout, national hopes now turn to the blessed reopening of life hoping to escape the litany of lockdowns in the process.
Sir Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West has been vocal in his criticism of Covid measures from the backbenches. Now arguing for a prompter and cleaner withdrawal from such measures.
Admitting hearing “very little but praise” from the vaccination programme in his area, Brady added “The multiple layers of restrictions and constant changes have been very difficult for Manchester Airport.
“I’m sure the airport will implement them as well as can be achieved but hope that a lighter touch system will be possible soon with COVID rates falling rapidly across the northern hemisphere and as vaccination becomes more widespread.”
Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee, is also part of a group of Tory MP’s arguing to do away with Covid restrictions sooner than most believe.
In order to shake the economy and personal freedoms back to life after nearly a year of starvation.
Tentative reports of reopening the nation are now starting to replace ones of lockdowns, tiers and restrictions, pleasing Brady and his fellow lockdown-sceptic backbenchers.
He added: “The Prime Minister will be setting out a roadmap to lifting restrictions on 22nd February.
“It is good news that he will be doing this at a time when the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated and numbers of positive tests, hospitalisations and deaths are all falling rapidly.
“Continuing progress with vaccination and the approach of spring should allow opening up to progress.”
Questions still remain over the uptake of the vaccine in some groups.
One being the reserve of BAME resident to get a jab. The most recent census showed 12.9% of Greater Manchester’s population are BAME residents.
Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, an area that has been administrating vaccines to the homeless, said: “One thing we must do is encourage more people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to get the jab.
“I’m still worried about the false information that is circulating about the vaccine, especially on social media.
“We must do everything we can to counter that including holding social media companies to account.”