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UK: Govt must work with communities in vaccine roll-out, says Starmer

27th Jan 2021
UK: Govt must work with communities in vaccine roll-out, says Starmer

By Hamed Chapman

London, (The Muslim News): Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has called on the Government to work “side-by-side with communities” to ensure an equal roll-out of the vaccine.

“Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities have suffered enormously during this pandemic. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19, rooted in structural inequality, continues despite repeated calls for Government action,” the Opposition Leader said.

“We are in a race between the virus and the vaccine. If we all pull together, we can win. Labour will support this effort. We will promote the vaccine, work with community and faith leaders and encourage all our members to play their part.”

His call comes as head of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, confirmed that the Health Service is starting to collect data on the ethnicity of people taking up Covid-19 vaccines, as he listed challenges around vaccine hesitancy among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people.

Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees, Sir Simon described the vaccine take-up so far, among over 80’s in particular, as “fantastic” and rumours such as people needed an NHS number to get a jab as “completely untrue”.

Systematic misinformation targeting certain communities, coupled with long-standing mistrust of authorities, were two of the major challenges that would need to be addressed, he stressed.

In an online briefing with prominent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic journalists and media outlets, Starmer said Labour was committed to playing its part and that his party will be working to encourage uptake as part of its Let’s Vaccinate Britain campaign by releasing pro-vaccine videos by MPs in numerous languages spoken in their local communities.

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner and Shadow Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova, also held a virtual round table meeting with Black faith and community leaders in the West Midlands last week to discuss the role faith leaders and local community leaders can play in promoting the vaccine and tackling anti-vaccine disinformation.

“The Government must also work side-by-side with communities. We need a clear plan to ensure an equal roll-out, with ethnicity data on vaccines administered and analysis of the impact of health inequalities. And we need urgent action to clamp down on online platforms who are allowing the spread of disinformation,” Starmer said.

Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to urgently bring forward legislation that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act to “stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content”.

The Opposition Leader also said that news of the UK Covid-19 death toll passing 100,000 is a “national tragedy and a terrible reminder of all that we have lost as a country”, adding that it was “twice the number we lost in the Blitz”.

“We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table,” he said.

[Photo: Sir Kier Starmer. Photo by Rwendland/Creative Commons]

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