As a local nurse was the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Gloucestershire earlier this week, this is not a time for fanfare or jingoism. Instead, it’s a time for sober acknowledgement that our country has moved quickly and amassed one of the largest and most varied vaccine portfolios in the world, coupled with a clear recognition of the task ahead.
This is a turning point, no question. In less than a year since the first patients began to be admitted to Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal, life-saving jabs are being delivered into the arms of vulnerable people. It means that friends and neighbours who would otherwise have perished in the coming months now will live on.
We have made a strong start here in Gloucestershire. From next week, local GP surgeries will support hospitals in rolling out the vaccine, with larger vaccination centres coming on-line in due course.
The first vaccines will go to the most vulnerable people in the country, beginning with care home residents and their carers, all those over 80, and frontline health and social care workers. For those who want to get their jabs, I am advised that local NHS services will make contact when it is time.
Wartime metaphors have started to grate a little, but here this is justified. This moment can properly be seen as like ‘El-Alamein’ in 1942 when the tide of the war changed. But remember that there was still much sacrifice that followed that victory.
There are still more than 13,000 people in hospital with COVID. Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal remain under intense pressure. If we slacken off now, the threat to life-saving planned operations in January is real.
So thank you for sticking at it. There is now a route out of this nightmare – if we just stay on the path.