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Bolton blamed for lack of vaccine intake due to Govt incompetence

18th Jun 2021
Bolton blamed for lack of vaccine intake due to Govt incompetence

(Photo courtesy of Yasmin Qureshi)

Yasmin Qureshi MP for Bolton South East

The past fifteen months have been borderline traumatic. The Government’s handling of the pandemic crisis has been an abject failure. In Bolton, we are forgotten until this Government needs a scapegoat to cover their tracks.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently shifted the terms of the debate away from the Government’s failings to “vaccine hesitancy.”

I was absolutely incensed that he tried to paint my constituents as anti-vaxxers.
I wrote two pieces in the I and in Politics Home to defend the very people I was elected represent. I care little if it upset those in Government, the media, or otherwise – I was returned to the House of Commons to give these people a voice, and I will never abdicate that privilege.

Hancock claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of people in care at the Royal Bolton Hospital with coronavirus had “rejected” the offer of a jab. As Paul Waugh later debunked, this was inaccurate at best and a brazen lie at worst.
The issue in my patch of Bolton South East is not “vaccine hesitancy,” but is much more complicated, and Ministers spinning a headline makes the situation just stands to stoke division.
Firstly, when Pakistan and Bangladesh were placed on the red list, rightly or wrongly, this was suggested to be because Hancock and others were privy to sensitive information – information still not in the public domain.
Pakistan in particular has dealt with the pandemic well, with (in the global context) lower case rates due to their demographics and the strategies pursued by their Government.

Contrast this with India, we now see a situation where there are millions of cases per day. It is the epicentre of the crisis and threatens the global recovery. It is also now clear that the Indian variant is now the dominant strain in Bolton. Frankly, this was a political decision. The Government left India off the red list because of an upcoming trade deal negotiation that they did not want to jeopardise.

Secondly, another issue which, has impacted Bolton acutely is inequalities of access to the vaccine. I have been shouting about this since February, but no one has listened. For example, only 30 per cent of households in Bolton have a car. This means that for those in hard-to-reach places, there are obstacles to administering the vaccine.
I called for community vaccine hubs which, would have prevented this very problem – providing support to hard-to-reach communities and reassuring those in vulnerable groups. I took this to the powers to be, alas, to no avail.
Moreover, many live in intergenerational households and thus if a young person is infected at school or in the workplace, they risk infecting their grandparents.

I, therefore, called for a flexing of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in Bolton to look at these very local issues, addressing unique problems which would emerge down the line. Again, I took this to the powers to be, and again, nothing transpired.

This is the source of my recent frustration. I tried to address these issues well in advance of this current predicament and was repeatedly rebuked. Now, as the Government’s failures regarding localised vaccination centres and the catastrophic failure to place India on the red list come to a head, they want to blame my constituents.

It is a disgrace.And now, the topping on the cake is the news that Bolton was placed in a state of quasi-lockdown at a moment’s notice, yet no one was told. I only found this out from a Bolton News article, and I was later phoned by a journalist who informed me that this was in fact introduced the week previously, adding to my surprise.

I will not stand for my constituents to be treated like second class citizens. We will not accept a local lockdown as they failed to reduce case rates and we now have the vaccine.

I commend the work of the NHS and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), in particular Dr Helen Wall, and ask that the Government roll in behind the work they are doing and provide increased capacity to provide jabs in arms and support to vaccinate everyone in the borough and prevent increased hospitalisations and sadly deaths. After the past 15 months here, it is about time those in Westminster began to listen to our requests in Bolton.

Yasmin Qureshi is Shadow International Development Minister. She also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Pakistan and Hajj and Umrah.


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