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Artillery Row

A clarion call to parents

The Government has once again betrayed the young

The onslaught of the last 72 hours has left me shell-shocked. First was the leaked news on Sunday that the NHS was preparing to vaccinate 5-11 year-olds.  Then came the refusal of Ministers to rule out school closures. Nadhim Zahawi’s statement over the weekend that Government would do “everything in our power to protect education” was already a far cry from a firm commitment to actually keep schools open, but he then went one step further, saying “getting your booster jab will help…to protect education”. Sajid Javid’s statement to the House on Monday cemented our National Health Service as the National Covid Service, and buried in his speech was the announcement that 12-15 year olds — lucky things — are now able to apply for a Covid pass for international travel.  And of course, the icing on the cake, last night’s vote.

For this pressure to be applied directly to children crosses a line

That each of these events crosses a rubicon is evidenced by the fact that they were deemed unthinkable by the very people ushering them in, until the moment they were, in fact, ushered in.  “This is an adult-only vaccine” (Kate Bingham); “we have no plans to introduce vaccine passports”(Nadhim Zahawi); “I don’t like the idea at all” (Sajid Javid); this will be a “cautious but irreversible roadmap” out of lockdown (Boris Johnson).

The vaccination of children against Covid — a disease which thankfully does not seriously impact the vast majority of them — has from day one been controversial. There are parents, millions of us (so far only around one million of a possible 2.8 million eligible 12 – 15 year olds have been vaccinated), who have been unwaveringly supportive of all childhood vaccination programmes, but who have serious doubts about this particular vaccine for the simple reason children don’t need it, plus there’s no long term safety data. These doubts are reasonable, shared as they were by JCVI in refusing to recommend mass roll-out to 12-15s, and we’ve been left recoiling at the sustained campaign of pressure from Government to proceed regardless. That this pressure has in some cases been applied directly to children is a line many felt should be uncrossable.

That this weekend’s reports of jabs for 5-11-year-olds were leaked to press before JCVI had considered, let alone approved, the idea, and coming on the same day as leaked graphics on social media announcing the vaccine passport as a fait accompli — a full 48 hours before Parliament had voted on the issue — reinforces the impression, now hard to shake, of an executive with scant regard for democracy or due process.

Extending vaccine passports to children is outright coercive and thus it is impossible to reconcile the reality that families will now be unable to travel if their children have not been vaccinated with the idea of genuinely voluntary consent, nor with the CMO’s express words in authorising mass roll out to 12-15s — “Individual choice should be respected”, he had said.

Zahawi’s statement that education may be protected by adult boosters is a veiled threat so unsavoury as to be chilling, and it leaves children’s already decimated education hostage to further fortune and adult behaviour.  It makes a mockery of the rationale invoked to justify the vaccination of children — that it’s a silver bullet that will protect education.  Now, with schools closing ad hoc before Christmas, children’s nativities and Christmas events held behind closed doors and rumours of remote learning returning in January — we see the lie for what it was.

And this before we reach the worst of it.

Vaccine passports, as well as being ineffective (it’s not possible to find a single country where they’ve worked; and just look at the data for heavily vaccinated states such as  Israel, where it was reported this weekend that 81% of Omicron cases were in the fully vaccinated), are disproportionately expensive — leaked papers estimate the cost of implementing Plan B to be as high as £18 billion when by comparison the government failed to cough up a fraction of the £15bn stakeholders suggested was needed for a semi-decent stab at educational recovery.  And of course, they are both divisive and discriminatory: in the UK, ethnic minorities are among those least likely to vaccinated.

Our Government has just introduced “medical apartheid”

Dominic Raab, chastising the “rebels” (aka luminaries) was at pains yesterday to stress that vaccine passports were not, in fact, a “big step”, nor a “slippery slope”. He’s right. We walked down steps and slid down slopes a year ago or more. Now we’ve entered wholly new terrain — marking as they do a fundamental change in our understanding of what it means to be free.  Sure, it’s “only” nightclubs, sure it’s “only” big events, and sure, for now, lateral flow tests will be allowed.  But after the last year and a half of lies, u-turns and half-truths, only the blinkered or blind would bet on it staying that way for long.  I believe Miriam Cates MP will be proved right in warning that this measure should “chill Conservatives to the core”.

Many may recoil at the suggestion that our Government has just introduced “medical apartheid” into society — but we only have to look to the continent to see this is precisely what they’ve done.  This and the refusal of ministers to rule out mandatory vaccination and lockdowns for the unvaccinated opens the door to a new era of segregation and division. It’s a future anathema to anything I ever would want for my child.

The sense of shock and betrayal among the members of our parent group today is palpable.

One mother sums up how many of us are feeling when she writes “restricting my freedom is one thing but my children’s, our childrens’…is just unacceptable. It is immoral. And now our childrens’ education is being threatened too? How is this happening? I’m sitting here sobbing while I write this. I would rather die than live in such a totalitarian state.”

I share every word of this and I am left feeling shaken and haunted; haunted we’re here, and haunted to see so many politicians content by turns to sleepwalk or sprint into this nightmare.  My only hope is that events of the past few days now serve as a clarion call to parents to unite behind those politicians of all persuasions — for there are still some — who are prepared to fight for our children’s freedoms. It is these men and women who will now get my thanks; and my vote.

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