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A lesson in mass vaccination from United Kingdom

Filed on May 3, 2021

Social distancing and isolation have given way to some freedom, the freedom to socialise and mingle with each other sans masks outdoors as restrictions are being slowly lifted by authorities.


Some may say the United Kingdom had its own (selfish) interests at heart when it placed orders for vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca early on to vaccinate its citizens in a hurry last year. And why not? The country had parted ways with the European Union and was eager to find its way in the new world when the pandemic struck and the ‘new normal’ forced Britons to stay away from society and keep loved ones apart. What most people forget about the UK is that country endured one of the harshest and longest lockdowns in the world before embarking on its mass vaccination campaign in early December 2020.nThe same can be said of Israel that went into a long lockdown during the darkest months of 2020 before emerging from the health crisis, maskless and out in the open in mid-April this year. Social distancing and isolation have given way to some freedom, the freedom to socialise and mingle with each other sans masks outdoors as restrictions are being slowly lifted by authorities.

The message from the UK and Israel is this: the virus has been beaten back by successful vaccination campaigns and a semblance of normal is possible if people wait while the vaccines do their job. The pandemic, meanwhile, is still coming in waves; India has been felled by the second wave as Covid-19 infections reach record numbers every day. What’s different in Britain and Israel is variants have been curtailed by millions of shots in arms that has raised immunity levels among the people. Both countries, however, were victims of mass condemnation for their curtailment of gatherings and strict enforcement of social distancing norms last year and early this year.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s Prime Minister, on Monday said social distancing norms would be dumped in June. The prime minister was cautiously optimistic about the date: June 21, he said, when social distancing could end. “I think we’ve got a good chance, a good chance, of being able to dispense with one-meter plus.” However, the country could slowly open from May 17. The idea is to keep the health bubble going and restrict visitors as they could bring in variants of the virus. It’s a challenge but there is little option until the world rids itself of the deadly pathogen. Here, countries who act swiftly on vaccinations — like the UK, UAE and Israel — are better placed since there is no global policy on vaccination, though some baby steps have been under the aegis of the WHO and the UN. Johnson, however, is clear: “We’ve got to be very, very tough, and we’ve got to be as cautious as we can.” The PM refuses to be a victim of his health policy success. It’s important to save one’s country before saving the world. Vaccine charity begins at home. A lesson some world leaders can learn from the UK.





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