Minister for care, Helen Whately, reflects on the incredible work done by health and care workers, scientists and researchers throughout the pandemic.
The last year has been without doubt the most challenging in most of our lives.
The biggest public health threat in 100 years has ripped families apart and taken far too many, far too soon. But it has also shone a light on the incredible work of our health and care workers, scientists and research teams.
Within a year of the pandemic arriving in the UK, we had the first vaccine approved, and just over 100 days later we passed the milestone of vaccinating over half of the adult population.
This is a tremendous achievement we should all be proud of. Even more encouraging is the protection the vaccine is providing in practice, including the latest data released this week by University College London as part of their Vivaldi care home study.
We know the vaccine is effective in reducing hospitalisation and death but this latest study of elderly care home residents suggests they gain 62% protection from infection within five weeks of just one dose.
This is particularly reassuring as we know elderly people living in care homes are the most at risk from this cruel virus. Now over 90% of care home residents have had their first jab and some have had their second jab too, giving them their own defence against the virus.
This lifesaving vaccination programme comes on top of a raft of measures we have put in place to protect care home residents over the last year, as we have built up our knowledge and tools for fighting Covid-19.
We built a national PPE distribution system from scratch to get vital supplies out to over 25,000 social care organisations including 15,000 care homes.
We developed a testing programme that has distributed over 20 million Covid tests to care homes and we have provided £1.35 billion to fund infection prevention and control measures in social care.
With lockdown bringing a huge fall in cases across the country, care homes have been able to open up for indoor visiting once again – using rapid tests and PPE to protect residents as they do so.
Visiting is such a vital lifeline for residents and families, and tens of thousands of people have been reunited with loved ones. Sometimes there will be good reasons why a home cannot offer everyone a visit every week, but care homes should not have blanket visiting bans in and we expect care homes to follow the guidance we have set out to allow people to see their loved ones.
During April we will continue to vaccinate those at risk and around 12 million people are in line to receive their second doses. It is absolutely crucial people come forward as soon as they are eligible.
When you get the call, get the jab, because the more people who are vaccinated the safer we will all be.
Photo Credit – Parliament