Last Thursday, I had the privilege of being given my second Covid vaccination. As I left the vaccination centre, I felt a real wave of pride for our brilliant NHS, and the speed at which they have vaccinated the public.

This time last year, a vaccine felt a million miles away and nothing was guaranteed. So much has changed since then. We now have several different vaccines available, and over half of the adult population has received at least one jab. It is nothing short of extraordinary and a testament both to science and our incredible health service.

Here in Tameside, the council and the Clinical Commissioning Group have worked together and incredibly hard. As a result, we have made huge inroads in vaccinating people quickly and have now vaccinated an incredible 70% of over 16s with their first jab. As of Sunday 23 May, we had vaccinated over 136,000 Tameside residents with their first dose and over 82,000 with their second. I would like to take the time to thank both the Council and the CCG for this amazing achievement.

Slowly but surely, we are seeing the benefits of the vaccination programme. Restrictions are easing, the economy is opening, and we are starting to have a nice bit of normality creeping into our lives again.

However, we must remain vigilant and willing to adapt in the face of new strains. The rates in Bolton and Blackburn are areas for concern, and the rise of the Delta variant across the country means that we should all keep practising social distancing and following government guidance.

The good news is that the vaccine is making a real difference. As each age group has become eligible for vaccination, its share of cases has fallen away. One striking example of this is that in over-80’s (who are most susceptible to death from Covid-19) the share of cases has fallen by over 80% since vaccinations began.

We have reasons to be cheerful, but it is vital that everyone who can gets a vaccine as soon as they become eligible. It is only through vaccination that we can build a world beyond Covid-19. As someone who has had the bitter experience of long Covid, I know all too well how unpleasant this virus is. I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone.

The future is bright then, but to get there we must keep up the hard work. Let’s stay safe, complete the vaccination programme, and get Covid behind us.

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