It is very encouraging that those people who have already received or have been booked in for a Vaccine are being protected against COVID-19. I am delighted that several of my older relatives and friends have already received this along with some of my friends who work in the NHS including the Mental Health agencies. There are clearly several other agencies that also need to be considered by the Government. A few days ago Priti Patel expressed her concern about the Police Officers who were being called in to break up groups of people who were ignoring rules from the Government. She explained that there would be additional fixed penalties for people who attend events. Sadly, she did not refer to the need for Police Officers to be added to the critical workers on the vaccine list. We can at least be glad that Gavin Williamson who in Parliament two weeks ago had refused to consider getting teachers added to the list, appears to have done a U turn in his thinking based on his interviews on TV and Radio a few days ago. Clearly the reality is that there is a huge distance for us all to travel before society will become a much more normal place. Last Thursday in Parliament several Sussex MPs discussed this and it is encouraging that they were more or less speaking on the same theme and with similar views. Perhaps some of them would now be willing to speak together outside of Parliament in a way that would enable our communities to feel that we are being spoken and listened too by our representatives. Although the context is very different, a couple of weeks ago Brighton and Hove Council announced as part of their climate assembly that they were going to start engaging with communities. It will not be an easy thing to achieve but if East Sussex and West Sussex were willing to adopt the same priority over COVID we could find that Sussex was in a much stronger place by the end of the vaccination process.
Clearly, we need to be aware that there has been some conflict between the North and the South over the last few days as there were claims that some of the vaccines were being shifted from the North to the South. That is what the tweet above relates to. However later on as expressed in this news piece the Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi denied that Yorkshire was having them moved South. Clearly nearly all of us want to be vaccinated and there will be many challenges but we need all parts of the nation to benefit equally. As one of the Brighton MPs Lloyd Russell-Moyle pointed out “Without increasing the 2 million doses a week to 5 million, we are going to be administering the vaccine to the adult population until the end of the year.” As far as I understand we have not achieved a weekly 2 million dose for any length of time so that is not a consistent number each week at present. Another MP who spoke at the same time as Lloyd was Huw Merriman from Bexhill and Battle who actually organised the debate so he deserves appreciation from all of us. His statement included the following “In my part of rural East Sussex, the vaccine has been slow to reach rural Rother, Battle and Heathfield residents. In the 200 square miles that I represent, only one surgery has been vaccinating. That has got better from this week, and I welcome that. I thank the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust team. Adam Doyle and his team have been amazing to MPs.” It is clearly vital that all of us get a chance to thank people like Adam and also encourage them to ensure that rural as well as urban settings are being cared for consistently. It is clear in all aspects of our lives that people who live in rural settings need to be well supported, as many of them live in relatively small villages as well as the significant towns like Heathfield and Battle which are just as vital for Sussex as Brighton and Hove. Peter Bottomley, the MP for West Worthing was another person who spoke during the debate. He said that “We know that people are going to be vaccinated in mass centres—I had the chance to see one yesterday—and in local hubs and at home, but too often people are sitting at home wondering which it is likely to be. Could the Secretary of State get the partnerships for integrated care—the sustainability and transformation partnerships—to make public how soon they expect to [vaccinate] most of those” It is vital that our MPs need to start communicating in a clear way with all of us instead of relying on the Government to do it in an effective way.