COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.K.The World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020. This declaration pushed scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop vaccines. By December 2020, the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, became the first country to approve COVID-19 vaccines for the public. To date, the U.K. is on track to achieve herd immunity, with close to 67% of its total population vaccinated with one dose and nearly 50% vaccinated with two doses. Although definitions of herd immunity vary, it generally involves vaccinating a majority of the population to reduce the spread of disease. Considering the success of COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, below are six facts about the current situation.

6 Facts About COVID-19 Vaccination in the United Kingdom

  1. The U.K. developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. University of Oxford scientists worked in collaboration with the English pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop this vaccine. In January 2021, an 82-year-old man named Brian Pincker was the first to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in England. The U.K. government currently has access to 100 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and 50 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.
  2. Vaccination programs vary across the U.K. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own healthcare systems and chief medical officers. As a result, vaccination programs and policies vary between nations. For example, Scotland first vaccinated residents in care home facilities, whereas England vaccinated community members above the age of 80. Despite these differences, all four nations generally agree on the priority list of people eligible to receive vaccines. They all follow the advice that the U.K.’s independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization gave them.
  3. The U.K. offers vaccines to certain age groups. The National Healthcare Services (NHS) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently offer vaccines to people over the age of 18. However, NHS England currently offers vaccines to people over the age of 23. As the rollout of vaccines continues in the coming months, this age limit will lower. In all four nations, people under the required age limit can receive the vaccine if they have pre-existing medical conditions, including lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., that make them clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.
  4. The U.K. offers vaccines to frontline workers. Across the U.K., frontline workers can receive COVID-19 vaccines regardless of whether they meet age requirements. Frontline workers include healthcare workers, social workers, hospital receptionists, mail carriers, funeral home directors and childcare providers.
  5. The U.K. will donate vaccines to other countries. In a recent G7 meeting in Cornwall, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged over 100 million vaccines to countries in need. As a group, leaders of the G7 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, committed to donating 1 billion vaccines to countries around the world.
  6. COVID-19 vaccination in the U.K. can reduce poverty. At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment in the U.K. reached 5% for the first time since 2016. This is a direct result of in-person venues and institutions closing for public health concerns. COVID-19 vaccination efforts can help reopen in-person institutions, reinstate jobs and lift people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom has been successful, as over 79.3 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. People receive these vaccines in community pharmacies, hospitals, local general practices and other vaccination sites around the country. As a result, the U.K. government is currently on track to vaccinate all adults soon.

In the words of British Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, this constitutes a “fantastic milestone and cause for celebration.” As more people get vaccinated, the U.K. government will be able to ease lockdown restrictions and reintroduce a sense of normalcy in society.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

Children and Wales’s Waking Poverty
Of any nation in the United Kingdom, Wales has had the highest increase in child poverty. Approximately 200,000 children (in households up to 60% of median income) live in poverty, or one in three. Likewise, 90,000 children (in households up to 50% of median income) live in severe poverty. In total, from 2017-2018, 29% of children suffered from poverty. This is due to high living costs, unemployment, public spending and benefit cuts. As a result of the U.K. government’s tax and welfare reforms, experts predict a continuous rise of Wales’ waking poverty.

Poverty-Reduction Legislation

To combat this waking poverty, some legislation has been and is currently undergoing implementation. For example, the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 and the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 legislation have helped children in need.

In addition, the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill provides funding 30 hours per week, up to 48 weeks per year, to working parents to assist in the education and childcare of their three- and four-year-old children. Westminster had also passed the Children and Families Act 2014, which provides flexible working for parents and focuses on family justice.

The rights and welfare of children go hand-in-hand. Addressing this, the Children (Abolition of Defense of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill ensures children’s rights in the face of any domestic assault or punishment that parents inflict, as well as instilling parenting guidelines and counseling.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has contributed to this waking poverty. Due to the pandemic, more children have suffered mentally, emotionally and physically. It has severely affected the educational system, as countless children have had to stay at home due to the outbreaks. The tight governmental restrictions have kept children at home, but at the expense of their emotional well-being.

In response, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that children may participate in their organized sports if games and practices take place outside their county boundaries. Additionally, children under the age of 11 will not have to social distance since their risk of transmission is low. As the cases lessen, guidelines will gradually ease in Wales and people can return to work and healthy, recreational activity.

ECPN and Moving Forward

While such legislation has occurred, Wales needs to take more steps to decrease Wales’ waking poverty. Change lies with the Welsh and U.K. government. In Wales, The End Child Poverty Network Cymru (ECPN) appeals to Wales for better, new strategies to combat this poverty.

ECPN, operating since 2004, is a coalition that Children in Wales manages. It specifically addresses the state of impoverished Welsh children by increasing public awareness, implementing measures to support children and ensuring all governmental policies are intact to eliminate child poverty. ECPN’s work brought the issue to the forefront at the United Nations Committee, which inquired and made recommendations on child welfare reform.

Organizations like the ECPN call for child poverty pledges from political parties nearing the 2021 election to the National Assembly for Wales. Meanwhile, in the U.K., coalitions appeal to respective political parties for reduction strategies, in addition to closing the link between benefits and inflation.

All this aid will ensure better survival, physically and mentally, for Welsh children. In time, Wales’ waking poverty will fall with more action and policy on the part of the United Kingdom and Welsh government.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in WalesWales, one of the four scenic countries that comprise the United Kingdom, has 25% of its population facing poverty. Around 200,000 children live in poverty in the country too, with 90,000 of these children enduring extreme poverty. As Wales struggles with poverty on a daily basis and searches for improvement, NGOs in the country are doing their part to combat poverty.

5 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Wales

  1. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent NGO working to solve poverty in the United Kingdom and Wales. Through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to inspire action and change inside of the United Kingdom. By shining a light on poverty in Wales while offering solutions of potential change, poverty in the country can be clearly addressed and better managed.
  2. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). CAFOD is an international NGO that reaches out to people living in poverty with practical help in the overall pursuit of campaigning for global justice. Through donations, campaigning and calling upon individuals to volunteer in both their local communities and internationally in Wales, CAFOD looks to immediately impact poverty with positive results. CAFOD is also a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest humanitarian, development and social service networks in the world.
  3. The Trussell Trust. This is an NGO that supports a nationwide network of food banks that collectively provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. The Trussell Trust handed out 70,393 emergency food parcels in April through September through its 117 food banks that comprise the Welsh network of the NGO. Across the United Kingdom, more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed through the Trussell Trust’s network during the first six months of the pandemic.
  4. Save the Children. An NGO founded in 1919, Save the Children combats child poverty worldwide in the mission of keeping children safe, healthy and learning. The Wales sector of Save the Children works with education, social care and health partners to deliver a range of programs that directly benefit the livelihoods of children in Wales. Children growing up in poverty in Wales are deeply affected, and as they fall behind in school due to the limited income of their parents, the cycle of poverty continues. Save the Children directly combats this cycle in Wales, advocating to the Welsh government about the importance of childhood education.
  5. The Bevan Foundation. Located directly in Wales, this NGO is on the constant lookout to reduce poverty in the country through innovation and ideas. Working alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to find new solutions to poverty, the Bevan Foundation has presented evidence to the Welsh Parliament’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on communities, poverty and housing. The evidence will be beneficial for implementing anti-poverty strategies in Wales. The Bevan Foundation has also advocated consistently for social security benefits that would alleviate poverty.

The Future of Wales

Wales, facing increasing poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finds its poverty worsening among children of the country more so than adults. Amid this poverty, organizations are working to address the situation in different ways. With the help of more NGOs, poverty in Wales can see even better results by addresing the very core and cycle of it.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr