Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 16 September 2021.
This week the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, set out the government’s coronavirus strategy for the winter. Before looking at the specifics of those plans, it’s worth reviewing where we are now.
Folkestone and Hythe stats
Despite the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19, the most infectious strain we have seen so far in the pandemic, infection rates and hospitalisations due to the virus in the Folkestone and Hythe district remain much lower than they were during the previous peaks last winter and in the spring of 2020.
Locally there have been three deaths from coronavirus since early April this year. Any death is a tragedy for those touched by that loss of life, but these three deaths in the past five months are a much lower rate of mortality compared with the peak of the pandemic last December.
At that time there were as many as nine deaths a day in Folkestone and Hythe.
Vaccine – safe and effective protection
The big difference between now and then is the vaccine, which is a safe and effective protection against the virus, and is saving lives. Everyone who is offered the vaccine should take it. New figures published this week by Chris Whitty, the government’s chief scientific advisor show the effectiveness of the vaccine even amongst the most vulnerable people.
Not 100% protection
The vaccine does not offer 100% protection against the virus but makes it much less likely that you will require medical treatment if you do get it. Nationally over this summer, for those aged 80 or over, the number of deaths of people who had tested positive for covid in the previous 28 days was 120 per 100,000 for those who were unvaccinated. However, for people who had received both vaccine jabs the rate was fewer than 40 per 100,000.
Support for vaccine offer for 12-15-year-old
When you look at the data locally for any new coronavirus cases, it is clear that they increasingly fall amongst younger people who are not yet vaccinated against the virus. That is why I support the decision that has been made to now offer the vaccine to all 12 to 15-year olds across the UK. Both of my children fall within this age range, and my wife and I want them to receive the vaccine.
The government has also announced that from next week people will be offered a booster third dose of the vaccine. The booster should be given at least six months after the second dose of the vaccine was administered. Those eligible include everyone over the age of 50, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers.
I hope that this booster programme will help us contain the spread of the virus as we go into winter, and will avoid the need for the introduction of any new restrictions. It has been great to see life returning to normal and we do not want to have to take a backward step.