Written Tuesday 24/11/12
Last week, the Oxford /AstraZeneca Covid vaccine announced some promising results, giving us all some hope that there could finally be light at the end of the tunnel.
However, there is a long way still to go and we have a lot of work to do to get ready for the vaccine.
It is important that everyone continues to follow the restrictions we have in place to ensure that we are keeping each other safe.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of visiting the centre here in Oxford where the vaccine was created.
I was struck by the huge effort put into the vaccine by all staff – from the scientists to lab technicians, nurses, administrators, cleaners and trial participants – and many more.
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to thank everyone in person for all of their incredibly hard work. They do our city and our country proud.
Their enormous achievement has been underlined this week by results announced on Monday which suggest that the vaccine may be 70 per cent effective at stopping vaccine symptoms, and up to 90 per cent effective with an adjusted dose.
This news is the latest in a series of similar announcements from different vaccine candidates and it gives us all some much-needed hope about the path out of the crisis.
However, the visit also emphasised the enormity of the logistical challenge that we face in rolling out the vaccines.
We have a huge amount of work to do to ensure that everyone can access a vaccine.
Labour are calling on the Prime Minister to publish a comprehensive national action plan for rolling out a future vaccine.
This plan should set out the criteria and targets that will be used to determine who is eligible for the vaccine and when – and be accompanied by an equal access plan which would put the infrastructure in place to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, can access the vaccine.
We are asking the government to introduce a minister for the vaccine to ensure national leadership and accountability for the programme, and to regularly update Parliament on the vaccination programme’s progress.
I am worried that without this, the vaccine distribution could go the same way as our still botched test and trace system.
We are also calling for a commitment to deliver the resources needed to meet the Easter target for vaccine roll-out at the upcoming spending review.
Without the necessary resources, I am concerned that the government will be unable to live up to its promise of a vaccination programme completed by Easter.
While there are many reasons to be cautious, and while there is a long way to go yet, after a long, tough year this news should be welcomed.
This week, I feel particularly proud to be Oxford East’s representative in parliament.