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People urged to take Covid-19 vaccine jab

25th Feb 2022
People urged to take Covid-19 vaccine jab

(Photo credit: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Equalities and Levelling Up Communities programme

The spectacular successes of the vaccination and booster rollouts have gone a very long way towards pushing Omicron into retreat, allowing us to relax the ‘Plan B’ COVID restrictions imposed before Christmas.

Yet, there are approximately five million people in this country – many from our ethnic minority communities – who have yet to receive even the first dose of the life-saving vaccine.

Of course, there will always be those who simply won’t be persuaded, no matter how emphatic the science or how convincing the public health need is. It’s also true that some unvaccinated people have legitimate concerns or are members of communities or groups that have long-held suspicions of public health institutions and/or the government.

It’s not our job to dismiss those people. It’s our job to understand the many factors that may hold them back. We also need to try to persuade them that vaccines are safe and are our first line of protection against the virus. And it must move beyond flooding communities with public service announcements or hectoring people to simply “believe in the science”.

For the vast majority of us, this pandemic has been the greatest threat to our collective health in our lifetimes. But for some communities, the calculus is different: COVID is only one of the multiple grave threats.

When confronted with that harsh reality, it’s no wonder many people and communities see COVID through the light of their own experience, viewing it as something that is not uniquely scary and concluding that getting jabbed should be a personal choice.

History tells us that introducing anything other than food into your body or blood is always likely to be an emotionally fraught experience. In the late 1790s, when the British doctor Edward Jenner began vaccinating people with cowpox to defend them against smallpox, there was immediate disquiet. Critics said the idea of vaccination was repulsive and ungodly; cartoonists depicted vaccinated people sprouting cow heads.

The complex set of fears of people holding back is why we’ve worked with faith leaders and a 14,000-strong army of community champions throughout the rollout and hear their concerns.

Fear and uncertainty are easier to foster than trust and confidence, and inaction is easier to encourage than action. But these credible voices have shown time and again that they can help people see the common good. They can also establish the trust people need to break out of the hesitancy straight jacket.

So, to help opportunity trump hesitancy in the weeks ahead, we’re investing £23 million in new funding to empower faith leaders and Community Vaccine Champions so, enabling them to take the message to communities where stubborn pockets of vaccine scepticism still exist.

COVID has repeatedly taught us that cookie-cutter policies don’t work, so instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, the funding is precision-targeted to the 60 local authorities with the lowest rates of COVID vaccine uptake.

People often pull together rather than apart during times of crisis, as exemplified by ethnic groups across the nation throughout this turbulent period. These Community Champions are helping us bring people through the most crucial stage of our battle with the pandemic by showing people the countless benefits of vaccination, not just for the country but for them, personally.

This is the third year that COVID has been part of our lives in the UK. However, this is the first year that we’ve witnessed a pandemic within a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Ninety per cent of patients in Intensive Care Units have not had their booster jab. This has put pressures on our embattled hospitals and NHS staff.

This is a testament to the painful truth that COVID does not care whether we believe the science. It only cares if we have received the jab.

So, if you haven’t, I urge you to take that small but vital step. Book your vaccine now and get a jab.

Kemi Badenoch,
Conservative MP for Saffron Walden

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