Vaccine inequality

Clearly, what the EU did by briefly considering restricting vaccine movement into and out of Northern Ireland was an error, although it should be made clear this was never actually implemented. However it's worth putting this in context of some recent events.

The cries of protest from senior Tories and the DUP are pretty hypocritical considering how silent they were when Boris Johnson threatened to deploy article 16 of the NI protocol only a few weeks ago. Then consider also how the govt were threatening to "disapply unilaterally" elements of the withdrawal agreement because they didn't like them - a threat to break international law. Despite how unwise a course of action it was, the EU was acting wholly legally within the parameters of the deal we signed with it. Additionally, I think the speed with which the EU leadership U-turned is something to be commended, especially compared to our own govt which claims everything is fine right up until they must change course, often a week later and after the damage has already been done. Additionally, given the way the UK govt is choosing not to make a big stink about this, it's clear to say they do not want this situation to escalate.

It's easy to see things from the EU perspective. They paid for a huge quantity of vaccines, hundreds of millions of doses, and are now told there will be delays and their first shipment will be a fraction of what was promised, whilst vaccines made in Belgium are sailing over the Channel into the UK. The pharmaceutical companies perhaps oversold and under delivered, and have picked winners and losers, which leads me on to my next point.

The vaccines are a symbol of successful global cooperation. They were made with international teams, in labs across the world working together, and with huge investment from many parties, including both the EU and the UK. The real problem is that once the vaccines were ready to sell, this togetherness has evaporated and it's become a political and economic game again. The EU has tried minimise this internally by buying as a group and then dolling the vaccines out: clearly it hasn't gone smoothly, but it's not been done before and they prioritised getting the best price over expediency: might seem a strange choice now, but in the lull of the summer with low case numbers perhaps seemed more sensible. The govts of the world should have clubbed together, bought the vaccines as a whole and distributed based on need (i.e. Numbers of elderly and at risk). This could have taken this global effort right to its natural conclusion.

Instead, particularly in the UK, we've made it a nationalistic issue. British jabs, in British arms. We funded the research: it's British! We had a researcher work in some other lab, it's British! We approved the vaccine first (regardless where it was made or researched): it's now a British vaccine! And then paying over the odds (especially compared with the EU, that got a better price than us) to ensure we get first dibs. Sure it's great for us, at least in the short term, but it just seems morally wrong to me that we should be vaccinating people in their 70s when many countries haven't even finished vaccinating people who are 80+! Additionally, our health and our economy cannot be safe from the pandemic until our neighbours are also safe.

Dr Sam Hollings


Gentlest vaccine jabbers

Is there anything new to say, about the Covid19 pandemic and, most recently, the vaccine and vaccinations?

Well, at Steam is a scene to write letters about.Talk of a crisis bring people together . . . from friendly car park attendants guiding you in, to other hi-vizzers standing out in the cold to show you the right door, to Drs Ash & Laura, the gentlest, kindest, most attentive jabbers you could ever wish to have poking sharp needles into you, this felt like the best kind of pandemic party you could go to.

It was the nearest I have experienced to a Festival event in STEAM’s Great Hall since two other greats, of the natural world and the poetry one, namely Attenborough and Duffy, graced the stage there ten years ago.

Let’s hope that, before too long, the good work being done there now will result in us all being able to experience live events here, there, and everywhere, and together, once again.

All this by way of saying many thanks, to scientists, the NHS , and counter-covid workers one and all.

You are doing great job and we thank you!

Matt Holland

Swindon Festival of Literature

Lower Shaw Farm