The Gandhian spirit of protecting the society's most vulnerable is being invoked by health officials as the UK achieved its target of administering life-saving jabs to a majority of care home residents and staff as part of its COVID-19 phased vaccination programme on Monday.
Ian Turner, Executive Chair of the Registered Nursing Home Association -- the country's national association representing the interests of care homes, expressed his gratitude to the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) as well as all the scientists and researchers who made it possible for the section of British society most at risk of dying from COVID-19 now having some protection against the disease.
"As Mahatma Gandhi said: 'the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable,' and the pandemic has brought that quotation to the fore," said Mr Turner, referring to the phased rollout of the vaccination programme.
"On behalf of all the residents of older people's care homes, their families and those who have continued to provide care and support to them during the pandemic, I would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to all those involved in the vaccination programme. From the scientists and researchers, those who participated and managed the trials, to the regulators and manufacturers of the vaccine through to the whole NHS vaccination teams wherever they may be working, we want to thank them for their extraordinary work over the past months," he said.
The NHS said nurses, general practitioners (GPs) and other NHS staff have offered the life-saving jab to people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents, with only a small remainder visits deferred by local directors of public health for safety reasons during a local outbreak.
The UK's Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) was responsible for setting out the priority groups for the Covid vaccines and had stipulated older adult care home residents and their staff as high priority groups due to being at particular risk from COVID-19 because of their age and frailty.
NHS England offered GPs up to GBP 30 extra to vaccinate care home residents in January to cover the increased time and logistics required in bringing the vaccine to care homes.
"It has been a privilege to vaccinate some of the most vulnerable people and the wonderful people who look after them. Many have had little contact with the outside world throughout the pandemic and so it has been truly humbling for all, giving them hope and importantly protection against the disease," said Dr GP Nikki Kanani, NHS England's primary care director, who also urged everyone to come forward for their free jabs when contacted by the NHS.
Now, with a majority covered with at least one of the two-dose Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, the focus will be on expanding the spread of the first doses as well as administering the second booster doses within a few weeks' time.
The UK government has set a target to vaccinate care home residents and staff, people over 70 and frontline care workers by February 15.
Meanwhile, a further 587 virus-related deaths were reported on Sunday, which takes the UK's COVID-19 death count to 106,158 as the country remains under a strict ''stay-at-home'' lockdown to keep control over a very high infection rate.