A report released today by the Tony Blair Institute has called on ministers to deliver 500,000 booster jabs per day as UK Covid deaths hit their highest figure since March.
Speaking on the Sky News Breakfast programme this morning, the former Prime Minister said: “If you take what happens in Israel, they got vaccinations probably quicker than any other place in the world. They got people double jabbed. Everything was going pretty well, but what happens is that after 6 months, so the evidence seems to show, the efficacy of the vaccinations starts to wane, and as a result of that waning, then people even if they are double vaccinated, can be liable to get covid, and of course if they have underlying conditions or other problems, then they can be seriously ill, hospitalised, even potentially die from it”.
Continuing in reference to the Middle Eastern nation, Mr Blair said, “That was the situation, they then moved to booster shots, and they have really taken care of it, as a result of it”.
Discussing the UK government’s current approach, he went on: “I think there is a lot more that they can do to make it clear to people why boosters are necessary” calling on the government to put in the “right mechanisms” so that it can move from the current level of 165,000 per day to closer to 500,000 per day. Referencing how people have been surprised on the downside with this disease, he said the government would be sensible to take these measures now, with a sense of “accelerated urgency”.
“It is not that the government don’t have in place the things that are necessary,” he said. “It is really a call for an accelerated sense of urgency. If you look at the UK today, and compare it to France, Italy, and Germany, whereas at one point during this pandemic, you could say that we were well ahead of vaccinations, and doing far better. Now when you look at our case levels and hospitalisation levels, they are several times the rate that they are in those countries”.
Detailing how the UK is now running at 40,000 new cases per day, and comparing that with the 3,000 level currently being seen in Italy, Blair effectively name-dropped some of his ongoing contacts, saying: “I was speaking to someone in the Italian government last week, they think that is too many. So we are well in advance of that.”
He argued: “So you just have to say what is going to happen, as we approach what will always be difficult, as you always do have a winter pressures on the health service, if those cases reach levels north not of 40,000 but of 80,000 or 100,000”.
Describing getting vaccinated as part of a person’s “civic duty”, Blair continued that, “We need to accelerate the vaccination of children. We are falling quite far behind now, France, Italy, Germany in the vaccination of 12 to 17 year olds.
He went on: “And we need to make sure that pregnant women, who are making up quite a large proportion of those people in ICU at the moment. We need to step up the campaign to reassure them that vaccination is sensible, and that they are in greater risk of covid than any problems resulting from vaccination”.
Pushed as to whether his fresh intervention on Covid might signal his return to frontline politics, Mr Blair said, “I don’t think that is on the agenda, which will probably be a relief to some of your viewers”.
During a Downing Street press conference yesterday evening, the health secretary Sajid Javid reiterated the government’s recent ine that “at this point” they do not plan to enforce Plan B restrictions that would likely see mandatory mask-wearing, vaccine passports, and advice to work from home re-introduced.
Last month Mr Javid said that while there is “no single trigger”, England’s ‘Plan B’ will be enacted if the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under “unsustainable pressure”.
Figures released last week by NHS England showed there are a record 5.7 million people in England waiting for hospital treatment, a figure set to grow by 100,000 a month.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Health Minister Edward Argar said, “The booster campaign is the key, and the campaign on the 12 to 15 year olds and younger people, is key to managing the infection rise”, saying: “There is huge pressure on NHS, that is entirely true, but I don’t believe at the moment that it is unsustainable pressure”.