Arguments over vaccines should be remedied now

This week I’ve had complaints from people who can’t get a flu jab and others who fear being forced to take a coronavirus vaccination.

A report by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends the following for a coronavirus vaccine: care home residents first; over 80s, health and care workers next; over 75s and so on till 50. However, the Chair of the Vaccine Taskforce has disclosed that she expects any vaccine to only be available for about half of the population and already disagreements are surfacing about entitlement, just as we witnessed over priority workers and school places or grocery deliveries during the first lockdown. 

It’s clear that any supply will be limited, in the early stages, and need to be prioritised, as happens with the flu vaccine. On flu, government usually provides it free for the highest risk groups: over 65s; pregnant women; certain medical conditions and people in residential care. Staff in high risk occupations are also advised to get it but their employers are expected to pay.

This year the government, worried about a double whammy of a flu epidemic alongside coronavirus, also recommended those aged 50-64 should have the flu jab. But the vaccine is ordered 12 months in advance and the new advice means that Birmingham/Solihull has considerably less vaccine than is needed. Just like PPE and testing, there appear to be shortages.

When we find a coronavirus vaccine, there will be arguments about who gets it first and we should sort them out now but the other problem might be persuading some people to have it. A recent survey found that one in six wouldn’t. I’ve noticed a rise in complaints, some object to compulsory vaccination for which there are no plans; others just denounce vaccines altogether.

Any vaccine would likely make as big a contribution as the smallpox vaccine but the government must reassure people and eliminate worries about supply. Making a full quota of flu vaccine available would be a good first step. I welcome a debate about access but to my mind, the Joint Committee have their priorities about right.

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