ON December 8, our very own Margaret Keenan made history as the first person in the world to receive a vaccine for Covid-19, beginning the largest vaccination rollout ever undertaken on these shores.

Fast-forward two months, and it is hard to overstate what we have achieved together through the UK Vaccines Delivery Plan.

The Prime Minister has always been clear that vaccines are the key to unlocking our way out of this pandemic and saving thousands of lives, and I want to thank all those within our NHS, emergency services, and our community in coming together to make this a success.

Nationally, the figures speak for themselves.

In just over two months, the UK has administered more vaccines than the EU 27 nation states combined and is third in the world only to the US and China in terms of the number of people vaccinated.

We are now averaging 2.5 million doses a week and we are accelerating the rollout by offering a vaccine to everyone over 50 by May.

To help maintain this momentum, we have secured early access to over 407 million total doses of vaccines for 2021 and 2022, and we recently announced a new partnership with vaccine manufacturer CureVac to rapidly develop new vaccines in response to new Covid-19 variants if needed.

It is to the credit of the incredible teams at the Suffolk and North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, the Essex Partnership NHS University Foundation Trust, and the North East Essex NHS Foundation Trust that our local vaccine rollout is under way at a fast pace.

I am in regular contact with the three local organisations and was delighted to hear that our area is in the top five in the country with around one in four of our adult population having received a first dose of the vaccination.

At the weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the mass vaccination centre at the Colchester Jobserve Community Stadium, capable of vaccinating many hundreds of people a day and several thousand each week, and it was inspiring to see the team effort from NHS staff and volunteers who are working at pace to vaccinate people locally.

After a successful pilot of drive-through vaccinations in Bury St Edmunds, I am pushing for the next pilot site to be here in Colchester which would allow for many hundreds more a day to be vaccinated locally.

The national and local success of the vaccine rollout is a testament to British science and to the selfless NHS staff who have inspired us all throughout this pandemic, as we lead the world from the front.

I not only want to thank the NHS, our armed forces, and our local volunteers, but to everyone in our community who has followed the government guidance and made sacrifices to battle this dreadful virus together.

However, the positive news on the vaccine rollout must not weaken our resolve but strengthen it.

We are in a critical phase of the pandemic and to let our guard down now would risk unravelling all the progress we have made as a local community and as a country, which is why we must all continue to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

There is light at the end of this long tunnel, but it’s vital we stay the course to embrace the brighter future which lies ahead.