After a long and difficult period, we are finally starting to see first-hand the incredible impact COVID-19 vaccines are having on people’s lives.
Over 70 million vaccine doses have now been administered since the programme began just over six months ago. That’s tens of millions of relieved faces, jabbed arms and loved ones protected from this terrible virus.
Health and care workers from every corner of the UK have made unforgettable sacrifices in the efforts to rapidly vaccinate as many adults as possible.
A large and integral part of this workforce has been those working in primary care – from GPs, nurses and pharmacists, to receptionists, administrative staff and volunteers – every person has played a crucial role in this achievement.
We would not be where we are today – with over 14,000 lives saved and 42,000 hospitalisations prevented – without their contributions to the cause, delivering an exceptional 75% of all vaccines.
I want to thank everyone across primary care for their tireless dedication and commitment to one of the most important causes in recent British history.
But we recognise the vaccination programme has placed GPs and primary care under enormous pressure, especially with more and more patients wanting to see their GPs for other conditions.
We must do everything we can to maintain the impressive momentum, while ensuring our primary care providers can balance the growing demand. That’s why we are providing a new package of funding and support to primary care networks to accelerate the programme even further and help accomplish our goal of protecting as many as possible from COVID-19.
This includes £20 million of extra support for GPs, pharmacists and local services, to increase staffing, boost uptake and ensure equal access to a vaccine no matter who people are or where they come from. This money will allow each primary care network an additional seven members of staff on average which will speed up the number of vaccines given to help us get out of the pandemic.
NHS England will also be providing vaccination sites with earlier notice of vaccine supply to help them with forward planning, and will work closely with clinical commissioning groups to offer further support where possible and get vulnerable people their second doses earlier.
Our vaccines are the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and its vital we keep up the pace. People who have been vaccinated are far less likely to get COVID-19 with symptoms, and are even more unlikely to get serious symptoms, be admitted to hospital or tragically die. There is also growing evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus on to others, and the vaccines are effective against variants of concern too.
Our health and care workforce have moved mountains to treat and protect a country from a completely novel disease and we owe them our greatest admiration.
For now, I can only reiterate just how important it is to keep up the phenomenal momentum and see this programme through to the end. Every jab given, every form filled out, every patient booked in, means another loved one safe from COVID-19 – and for that, the whole country can give thanks.
Nadhim Zahawi MP is minister for Covid-19 vaccine deployment, and MP for Stratford-on-Avon