I’m sure that many of you were disappointed to hear that the move to Step 4 in the roadmap for easing Covid restrictions was delayed by four weeks; I know that for many in the hospitality industry particularly, that this was a heavy blow. We are however continuing to make great progress on our vaccine rollout and there is increasing confidence that the vaccine is breaking the link between cases and hospitalisations. The delay buys us a little extra time to ensure that data is proven whilst continuing to vaccinate as fast as possible.
In less than 200 days since Margaret Keenan was given the first vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, we have now managed to roll it out across the older and more vulnerable age groups to the points where all UK adults are now eligible to receive their first jab.
When the history books are written on Covid 19 and future generations come to study the pandemic, I believe that the speedy development of a vaccine and its rollout will be heralded as a great success story. Whilst great efforts have been made around the world to by several pharmaceutical countries, I believe that in the UK we can be proud of the role played by Oxford University, where a team lead by Dame Sarah Gilbert were able to have a vaccine ready for approval in just nine months. With large-scale manufacturing by AstraZeneca, an unprecedented amount of financial support from the UK Government, and the speedy development of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine too, we have been able to produce doses and get them into arms at record speed.
As the Prime Minister said recently, there has not been a time in the last 100 years when we have not been so indebted to the power of science, and I welcome the fact that the Government are taking this opportunity to increase spending on scientific research of all kinds and establish a new National Science & Technology Council. Sir Patrick Vallance, who as Chief Scientific Adviser has become a household name in the last eighteen months, will become the UK’s National Technology Adviser.
Whilst meeting the scientific and technological challenges of today, it’s important that we invest in our future too and ensure that children see STEM subjects as a career path they can pursue on leaving education. Whenever I visit schools and colleges across Halesowen & Rowley Regis, it’s exciting to think that the students I’m meeting could be our next innovators, inventors, researchers and entrepreneurs. I welcome the Prime Minister’s ambition to use the levelling up agenda to increase scientific start-ups, and I hope that our region and the Black Country in particular, with its proud industrial heritage, can enable the UK become a scientific superpower again.
This article first appeared in the Halesowen & Dudley News on 8th July 2021.