• Monday, May 27, 2024


‘Jab hesitancy can be fatal for groups at risk of Covid’

Tony Matharu.

By: Radhakrishna N S


By Tony Matharu

THERE are many les­sons to be learned from the Covid-19 virus and the government’s re­sponses to it.

But now may or may not be the time to in­vestigate what hap­pened, because corona­virus is not the first pandemic and I sus­pect, it will not be the last, despite the havoc it has wreaked across the globe with massive loss of life, irreparable dam­age to livelihoods, eco­nomic and financial devastation and long-term consequences on the health and welfare of populations, espe­cially the young.

We have all suffered. But now is not the time to ignore the best chance we have to re­lease ourselves from the grip of the virus. We must take advantage of the government’s vac­cine programme – something which we should embrace. We should acknowledge that in this respect, the UK has done things well.

We know that Covid and its variants affect or potentially affect every­one. To that extent, it is indiscriminate – reach­ing every corner of the globe. Yet it is discrimi­natory. It affects the el­derly, the obese, those suffering with diabetes, males and black and Asian populations more than others. Those most at risk must take every opportunity to protect themselves, their fami­lies and others and take the vaccine.

Recent revelations from the city’s public health chief show Lon­don’s Asian communi­ties have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 sec­ond wave, spiralling rapidly out of control in north-east London be­fore spreading else­where. It emphasises the importance of tak­ing up the vaccine when it is available.

Regrettably, there are reports that the com­munities most at risk are also those that are most hesitant. This is concerning and every effort must be made to reassure high-risk minority ethnic groups of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and to encourage them to come forward to be vac­cinated when invited.

The vaccines are ex­tremely safe and effec­tive, and vital for saving lives and providing a route out of the cycle of lockdowns. To be clear – there is no meat prod­uct, no pork, no alcohol in the vaccines. Faith leaders have endorsed them. Misinformation must be ignored, par­ticularly when data from the first wave shows that ethnic mi­norities were twice as likely to die from Covid.

Scepticism, hesitancy and ignorance are fatal, especially when those who most need the vac­cine are disproportion­ately impacted and most vulnerable to the virus. Indeed, there is a good argument to sug­gest that key workers – disproportionately from black and ethnic minorities – and those from other high risk groups should be prioritised for their own safety and that of others.

It does not take too much imagination to consider where we would be in if there were no viable vaccines to help us with the battle. Hope now exists where otherwise there would only be despair and fear.

The speed and effi­ciency of the produc­tion, purchase and roll out of vaccines is the envy of others. Yet there should be no vaccine nationalism or brag­ging. The sound deliv­ery and efficiency of vaccines distribution to date should be com­mended and the advan­tages exploited – even if mistakes were made that led us to where we are now.

Equally, the UK’s in­novative rapid genome sequencing, which al­lows us and the world to better understand and adapt to mutations and new strains, should be applauded. Sharing our knowledge helps protect ourselves and enables a more secure world. This must also be encouraged.

We can at last breathe more freely, albeit behind our face masks. We must dismiss vac­cine pessimism and take up the opportunity when invited, to lead us all into a better, more optimistic and a health­ier future.

Tony Matharu is the chairman of the Asian Business Association and founder-director of the Central London Alliance.

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