Vaccines minister: Why we must keep calm and get the jab

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi writes for the Star, celebrating the success of the vaccine roll out in the West Midlands but urging people to continue to be careful.

Over-30s are now being called to get their jab
Over-30s are now being called to get their jab

The West Midlands is leading the way with vaccination programme – but we must remain vigilant.

Last week, the region reached yet another astounding milestone, with more than 10.3 million doses delivered and 6.1 million people receiving at least one dose. This is a huge step forward in our race between the vaccine and the virus.

The region is home to the largest number of people vaccinated against this virus and has truly led the way in our vaccination programme, with the record speed at which they have administered doses.

My own constituency, Stratford-on-Avon, has played an incredible role in the vaccination programme to date, with more than 65,000 people fully vaccinated and over 76 per cent of adults receiving at least one dose.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi

Behind these numbers are real people: the thousands of lives that have been saved and even more of our loved ones that have been protected from hospitalisation or severe illness. The millions who have rolled up their sleeves to get the vaccine. The doctors, pharmacists, care workers, volunteers and local leaders who have delivered the vaccine at record pace, protecting their community.

Almost six months ago, the West Midlands made history at the University Hospital in Coventry when Margaret Keenan became the first woman in the world to receive an authorised vaccine for this virus.

Ten million doses later, the Midlands continues to break records and deliver the vaccine at lightning speed. Every single person who has played a part in this journey to recovery should be incredibly proud.

I know that many are understandably concerned about the new variant, and what it means for the future. But we can be extremely reassured by the success of the vaccination programme and the new data which shows that two doses of the Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against the new variants. We have also recently been granted authorisation for the Janssen vaccine to be added to our armoury of vaccines to defeat this virus.

As the Prime Minister said last week, there isn’t anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to stray from the roadmap. But, we still need to be cautious – that is why it is incredibly important that everyone continues to follow the rules and get their jabs, including that crucial second dose.

As we’ve always been clear, we will not be complacent and we will not hesitate to take fast action if needed to contain outbreaks and future emerging variants of concern, with local intervention at the heart of our response. By acting quickly whenever the virus flares up and protecting people through our vaccination programme, we can safeguard the incredible gains we’ve all made and keep ourselves on the road to recovery.

We are also providing advice on the additional precautions people can take to protect themselves and others in those areas where the new variant is prevalent, such as in Leicester. This includes, where possible, trying to meet outdoors rather than indoors, keeping two metres apart from anyone you don’t live with and minimising travel in and out of affected areas. These are just some of the ways everyone can help bring the variant under control in their local area.

While we have made phenomenal progress with our vaccination programme so far, we must remain vigilant.

We have recently opened up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccine to everyone over the age of 30 and I heartily encourage everyone to get the jab when the offer comes. The vaccine is our greatest weapon to send this virus into retreat, and the second dose is vital for maximum protection.

We all have a part to play in keeping this virus under control and this always has been a community effort. The success of the vaccination programme in the West Midlands is a testament to this. We will soon be able to reclaim our freedom and return to the things we love. But in the meantime it is more important than ever to keep calm and get the jab.

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