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Message from Executive Director, Jane Parfrement 16 December 2020

16 December 2020

You can't turn on the news currently without seeing mention of vaccinations and coverage of the first coronavirus vaccination administered on 8 December 2020 made me surprisingly emotional at the significance of the moment. It's a hot topic currently and one I wanted to explore in this message.

I need to be really clear first and foremost that I'm not an expert in vaccines and vaccinations and I'm not going to pretend I am. What I am, however, is a mother, daughter, partner, member of my community and someone responsible for leading critical public services.

Many of our colleagues, friends and communities will have a variety of thoughts on vaccination and now more than ever. People will be wondering should I vaccinate? Is it safe? What are the risks? What happens if I do nothing? It is normal to consider all of those things.

Often though, we think of vaccinations directly in relation to the impact on individuals whether that be us or those we make the decisions for, like our children. We consider what would happen to them if they do or don't have the vaccination.

More recently I have also been trying to think about how vaccination affects others. When a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, it is difficult for diseases to spread, because there are not as many people who can be infected and then spread it. You may have heard people talk about herd immunity but maybe we should think of it as 'community immunity'.

I do feel that as a community we have a collective responsibility to protect vulnerable people. Whilst many of us may fall into a lower risk group others do not and it is only through having a high proportion of the population protected that we can begin to see a diminishing impact.

With the modern media age there is such a wealth of information and misinformation. I wonder how Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccination would have fared on social media, a vaccine that over 200 years successfully eradicated smallpox. I read all the information available and make informed decisions by using scientific and government advice. I try really hard not to be swayed by misinformation that seems to be growing and making its way around social media sites.

If you are interested in the personal decision I have made, I have taken the flu vaccine, I will be taking the COVID vaccine when it is available to me and I chose for my children to have their childhood vaccinations, a choice I would make again.

For many the vaccination is a new day dawning in the fight against COVID. In due course each of us will need to decide how we feel about the vaccine, and I would encourage us all when doing this thinking to do so, not just with ourselves in mind, but the impact on our broader families and communities. 

It is also worth reinforcing in the meantime that vaccines are not a sudden or quick fix and we still need to do all the things we have been doing such as 'hands, face, space' to minimise transmission and help protect those vulnerable people in our community.