Opinion

The PM said Britain's vaccine success is down to greed. He was wrong

Everything we know about the vaccines rollout success is that it’s a triumph of medicine, tireless NHS staff and social good

Football pitch

Pitch perfect: Hopefully things will be back to normal soon. Nebojsa Markovic/Shutterstock

In my local park last week I noticed fresh white lines. The grass had been cut for the first time in a very long time, and a football pitch had been diligently painted out.

I walked round the edges of it at least twice, careful not to spoil the pristine white. It was smaller than full-size, clearly for younger players. Or maybe those whose professional playing hopes are best quietly put away. I chased my dog from within the sacred space when it looked like he might scuff the D. It was, very much, a moment.

The return of some competitive outdoor amateur sports as a measure of lockdown easing is like a deep breath drawn after a long time in a dusty, windowless room.

We attach incredible weight just now to the joyfully banal. The thought of doing the ordinary is extraordinary – conversations increasingly begin with “I can’t wait until…”

And everybody is getting really fed up with walking around the same circuit again and again.

The ongoing debate about the necessity of vaccine passports to open life up again is both a mark of the vaccine rollout success, and a concern about the future. We’ve been down the lockdown easing road before, but it didn’t take. We want to know that vaccines will return life.

If we weren’t already, our antennae will be finely tuned to all that is said and done next

Passports don’t feel like the answer. Because they’re open to abuse, to argument, and if they are in any way mandated they will again hammer those who’ve already paid a heavy price – the young. Welcome to key years of late teenage and early-20s life kids. But you’re not allowed in!

The only way to really get round the potential vaccine passport problem is to accelerate and vaccinate everybody. Clearly there are supply issues with this. But the thought will please Boris Johnson. Britain’s vaccine success is down to greed, he said, down to capitalism. It’s a remark that he quickly rowed back on, but it’s out there now.

It’s wrong, obviously. Everything we have learned about the vaccine rollout success is that it’s a triumph of smart, fast medicine, of people working way above and beyond for the greater good. It’s medics and nurses and ancillary NHS support staff putting in tireless, incredibly long shifts to help those who need the help. It’s social good. In a clear fashion it’s an expansion on to a national stage of all the great deeds done at community level by so many thousands during the last year to help others, not themselves.

And if the PM can’t see that, and still believes that the driver is greed, then it’s indicative of something else. If we weren’t already, our antennae will be finely tuned to all that is said and done next.

The lines will not long remain pristine.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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