Vaccination and health & care staff

The question of whether all front-line NHS workers and other care staff should be vaccinated against Covid 19 has yet to be resolved.

More than two and a half thousand people have died from Coronavirus in Northern Ireland since the start of the pandemic, over 150 of them in the past month.

While it is not possible to legislate for compulsory vaccination, it is possible to ensure a duty of care to patients and clients.  Un-vaccinated staff pose an infection threat, and worse, to those they are caring for and to those who work with them.

There will be some staff who, for a number of reasons, cannot or will not accept the vaccine and they have a right to do so. However, with rights come responsibilities.

There may always be people who reject or debunk the science, but in the face of an ongoing pandemic, a rising death toll and a health and care service pushed to its limits and beyond, the priority has to be the safety and well-being of patients, clients and staff.

That cannot be afforded if unvaccinated staff form part of the front line.

What does this say about citizenship?

With a significant number of people remaining unvaccinated, or refusing to be vaccinated, the risk of increased community infection, hospital admissions and even further fatalities persists.

In the last two weeks there have been over 17,000 positive cases recorded. 60% of Covid patients currently in hospital have not been vaccinated. Twenty-eight people have died in the last seven days and infection rates are now twice as high as they were during June.

Refusal, or reluctance, to get vaccinated against the worst global pandemic in over a century raises serious questions about how we discharge our social responsibility to each other, the value we place on institutions like the NHS and what role, if any, citizenship plays in our society.

Many of those refusing, or reluctant, to take the Covid vaccination rely on spurious claims based largely on social media generated myths and deliberate misinformation to justify their ‘freedom of choice’ arguments. Others fall back on conspiratorial, religious and paranoid beliefs.

What does this say about citizenship and collective responsibility in our society? 

Amongst other things, it says that there is an unashamed culture of “I’ll do as I please and to hell with the consequences.” It says that many people don’t believe they have a responsibility to others, let alone to themselves, and that they are sufficiently emboldened to proclaim that publicly.

It says that the core values of the dominant culture in our society – individualism, selfish disregard and an absence of personal accountability – are now jeopardising the vulnerable, the future health of the population, the resources of the NHS and the possibility of a further wave of infections.

What is welcoming is the fact that the majority of people are and have acted with a real sense of social responsibility in spite of the lead given by many so called political and social elites. Recent months have been littered with examples of well-known people and organisations blatantly flouting their responsibilities and compounding the indignity of their actions with self-justifying and insulting ‘apologies’.

The very concept of responsible citizenship has been under assault for many years – indeed the many social gains of post-World War II era, including the NHS, have been subject to systemic undermining since their inception. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous ‘… there is no such thing as society- only individuals’ speech encapsulates the campaign to erode the principles of citizenship.

Thatcher’s declaration in 1987 was a demonstration of the determination of the class she represented to wage war against the unions, dismantle social benefits and gains and to privatise health, education and public utilities in favour of individualism. It was also an open assault on the socialist principles of benefit for the many not the few. 

Failure to take responsibility through firm and decisive action at the outbreak of the Covid crisis, rapidly led to managing the pandemic through a reliance on personal responsibility, social distancing and mask wearing.

The combination of government failures, the arrogance of elites and the ignorant and self-centred attitude of those who have bought into the capitalist myth of ‘personal freedom of choice’ has serious consequences throughout society. 

It puts health and well-being at risk, it provides cover for corporate exploitation and challenges the concept of social responsibility and citizenship.

Educating children, and adults, in the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship is an important and ongoing task. However, only a radical transformation to a socialist society can ultimately establish citizenship, social responsibility and a collective society as our core values.

Don’t wait – Get the Jab Done now

Covid kills. It can also make you very ill. You might need to be admitted to hospital. You might even end up in Intensive Care.

If you get it, you could also pass it on to others – family, friends, mates. You don’t want to do that.

Everyone who gets protection from the coronavirus by getting a vaccination helps get us all that bit closer to normal life.

Even if you’ve been unlucky enough to have had Covid 19 already, you should still get the vaccine.  It will help you and it will help others

The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected, the sooner we can all feel safer. Don’t wait.

The importance of the NHS

Health and social care staff, and all those who work in the NHS here, have been congratulated by the Party’s spokesperson in Newry and Armagh, Nicola Campbell.

“More than half a million people here have received their first Coronavirus vaccination jab and thousands more will be vaccinated by the end of July”, Nicola said.

“Although we are not out of the woods yet, frontline health and social care staff, against all the odds, have held the line against the pandemic and have helped to ensure to that we are on course for the return of some sort of normality”, she added

“There can be no argument but that these successes have been achieved by virtue by the dedication and professionalism of all those involved in the planning and delivery of the vaccination programme and in the treatment and care of Covid positive patients.

Nor can there be any doubt that this was made possible by a centrally funded, centrally planned health and social care service”, Nicola said.

We would not be where we are today if our health and care relied on private medical insurance or privatised hospitals”.

“For now, and for the future, the lessons are clear and telling”, said Nicola. “The NHS must be prioritised, strengthened and properly funded. The staff who deliver its services must be supported, developed and paid the wages they deserve. It’s not just the NHS that’s unsafe in private hands – its also the elderly, the vulnerable, the ill and all those in need.

When we eventually emerge from this pandemic those are the priorities and the principles that need to be secured in the face of any attempts to turn a public health service into a private one under the guise of reform and restructuring“, “Nicola concluded.