This week sees the first ever vaccination against COVID-19.
A woman from Northern Ireland, Margaret Keenan, has become the first in the world to be given the new vaccine, developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and given the green light by the UK’s medicine regulation board – making us the first country to do so.
The story on this vaccine is not an easy one, the topic itself is controversial. For example, Pfizer, the company that developed the drug, has a terrible reputation, including being fined in the past for overcharging the NHS by an eye-watering 2,600%.
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to feel some discomfort at the notion that a company like this should be given so much taxpayers’ money, and can be trusted with our health and wellbeing. Pfizer is set to make billions out of this vaccine. People are entitled to legitimate concerns and we must be open about these issues. I’ve spoken about this at some length on a recent livestream, which you can watch here.
Having said all of that however, it is clear that we cannot remain as we are, something must be done to get our country and our town back on its feet.
Here in the Northeast, the vaccine rollout will be coordinated by Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, but it is not yet clear how this will work.
According to the Sunderland Echo:
The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be coordinating the vaccine hub for the North East which as confirmed by a letter to trusts from Emily Lawson, NHS England’s chief commercial officer, and Sue Harriman, chief operating officer of the Covid-19 vaccination deployment programme last month.
At this time no exact details have been announced on how, where and when the vaccine will be administered in the region.
Many have questioned whether or not this vaccine will be compulsory, and that too is currently unknown. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule this out, and a vaccination card is likely to be given to those who have received the jab, which in turn, is likely to open up more freedoms to them.
ITV News has reported that Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly has stated:
“It’s about unlocking people’s lives, it’s about unlocking the economy, it’s about making sure we protect lives and protect livelihoods. Ultimately, it’s about making sure that there is a wide roll-out and confidence in that roll-out.”
It is a scenario that many had dreaded; a vaccine developed with haste and our freedoms made conditional upon us taking it.
For my part, I want more information. If I were in Parliament, that is what I would be seeking. What is this vaccine? Is it safe? Does it work? Is it compulsory? How much money is going to Pfizer/BioNTech and on what basis are they deciding their prices?
It seems to me that few (if anyone) in Parliament is willing to ask even these basic questions. That is ultimately what must change if we are to regain trust in our Parliament and our democracy.
Anne Marie Waters