We can’t let poor countries fall behind on the vaccine rollout | Matt Mohan-Hickson

Nurses Sarah Anderson (left) and Amy Addison mix the Pfizer vaccines so they are ready to use. Picture by Simon HulmeNurses Sarah Anderson (left) and Amy Addison mix the Pfizer vaccines so they are ready to use. Picture by Simon Hulme
Nurses Sarah Anderson (left) and Amy Addison mix the Pfizer vaccines so they are ready to use. Picture by Simon Hulme
The early stage of the coronavirus vaccine rollout is one of the few areas that the UK has actually had real success so far in the pandemic.

Obviously it is still early and we could run into supply issues or other problems.

But right now it does seem likely that we are on course to hit the target of vaccinating the top four priority groups – some 15m people – by mid-February.

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This doesn’t take away from the many, many mistakes our government has made over the last 12 months – just look at our tragic 100,000-plus death toll so far.

It is however a glimmer of light, the hope that the end of lockdowns and restrictions could be soon in sight. Perhaps a summer of drinks with friends in beer gardens and trips to festivals could await us.

But for most of the world it has not been quite as smooth sailing so far.

A headline on America’s NBC News read ‘Covid vaccines rollout in disarray in US and abroad’.

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However beyond the developed world, the outlook is even bleaker for poor countries.

According to a report in the British Medical Journal, mass immunisation is not expected in the poorest countries until 2022 or 2023.

That part of the world could be faced with the threat of the pandemic for another two years is not a thought which sits easy with me.

The first world or G7 or developed countries or whatever you prefer to call it simply cannot let that happen.

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Once Britain has vaccinated all of the priority groups and key workers, like supermarket staff, bus drivers and many more, we should look at sending any surplus of vaccines to countries in need.

I know it is probably much more complex than just sending a few boxes, the proper supply chains and mechanisms for rolling the vaccines out likely also need investment.

But surely as a wealthy nation there are plenty of ways we can provide support and infrastructure to developing countries.

If we are supposed to be ‘Global Britain’ now we have left the European Union, then what says ‘global’ more than lending our expertise to the world to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic?

Maybe I am being naïve.

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Kate Bingham needs to be properly recognised when this is done

I remember the fury and outrage online when Kate Bingham was put in charge of the UK Vaccine Taskforce last year.

When the news had broke, there were lots of angry posts, cries of cronyism and threats of legal action.

I felt nothing but apathy and even that was not a particularly strongly held position.

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But it turns out that her appointment was an inspired one and the taskforce has clearly been a blinding success.

The decision to throw money at as many vaccines as possible in a scattergun style approach has paid off massively.

This can be seen every day with the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people who are vaccinated up and down the country.

We should make sure to properly recognise her and the whole vaccine taskforce when the dust settles.

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In the long run they will have saved countless lives and we owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.

I’m dreaming of normality again

For the first time in almost a year, I have started to let myself hope about trips to see my friends in a few months.

I’m not getting carried away, but when my mind has wandered it has gone to thoughts about having pints in York or visiting familiar haunts in my hometown.

Shooting the breeze and telling the same old in jokes for the first time since 2019.

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Perhaps it might even be sunny and we can sit outside, but I spent 18 years in the north east and I know what to expect.

I have not quite let myself get excited about the prospect of the rearranged Killers concert going ahead.

But after feeling utterly bleak and hopeless for much of the last 12 months, the vaccine rollout has been like a beacon of light being ignited in the dark.

And soon words like ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ will fade from everyday use, left to become questions for history exams answered by future generations.

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