Portsmouth's vaccination programme is a success | Stephen Morgan MP

Portsmouth’s vaccination programme has been a real success so far.
Stephen Morgan outside St James' Hospital.Stephen Morgan outside St James' Hospital.
Stephen Morgan outside St James' Hospital.

Whether it be NHS staff, armed forces personnel, volunteers from organisations like HIVE Portsmouth, or local pharmacies, everyone in our community has chipped in to help bring the vaccine’s collective benefit to our city and our country.

In recent weeks I have had the privilege to spend some time working alongside some of them as a volunteer at St James’ Hospital vaccination centre, welcoming and reassuring residents arriving for their jab, and seeing the smile and sense of relief on their faces as they leave.

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What struck me doing this was the incredibly dedicated and inspiring efforts of all involved. It really has shown the best of our cherished NHS. They deserve huge credit and our city’s thanks for the tremendous progress they have made – particularly over the last month.

This week we learned the UK reached the important milestone that more than 15 million people in the top four risk categories have now been offered their first COVID-19 jab.

It is also great to hear promising news about the vaccine reducing transmission rates. This is good news which means that the vaccination programme should allow the safe opening up of society.

However, with new variants emerging, we are now in a race against time.

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It means that government should now be targeting key workers in critical professions to be added to the first phase of the vaccination programme, alongside JCVI categories 5-9.

This week is half-term and would have been the perfect opportunity to vaccinate teachers. It would have helped to reduce disruption in the classroom once schools are back and begin the process of getting as many students back in the classroom as quick as possible. It is the common-sense approach.

Like many of you have told me in my postbag, I also want to see teachers and support staff vaccinated as part of a national effort to reopen schools. Pupils have experienced extraordinary disruption to their learning over the last year, which is why Labour’s vaccination plan would prevent further disruption due to staff absences.

There is growing evidence that vaccination can reduce transmission, meaning school classes would not be disrupted due to teachers testing positive for the virus.

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But it’s not just teachers. Ministers must bring forward plans to vaccinate other key workers as soon as possible too.

It’s also now crucial that, as we move towards second jabs for the most vulnerable and the first jabs for the next groups, Ministers lock-in the gains of vaccination.

This means putting in place measures to further reduce the spread of Covid including decent financial self-isolation support, updated mask wearing guidance and help for workplaces to be Covid secure.

We have already seen the virus mutate, it’s urgent more is done to reduce its spread while vaccination continues at pace.

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Government owes it to those making the vaccination programme in our city a success to get this right. We all need it if we are to get Britain moving again, and begin to reopen our city.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​