Update on the Covid-19 Inquiry
In July 2022, the national Covid-19 Inquiry was launched. To allow for full and focused examination of all of the different aspects of the pandemic, Baroness Hallett DBE made the decision to split the Inquiry into modules. Currently, six modules have been announced by the Inquiry, these are; Resilience and preparedness, Core UK decision-making and political governance, Impact of Covid-19 on the healthcare system of the four nations of the UK, Vaccines and therapeutics, Procurement, and the Care sector.
In September 2023, The Traveller Movement was formally named a Core Participant in the Covid-19 Inquiry for Module 4, which will discover evidence on the topic of ‘Vaccines and Therapeutics’. This module will specifically examine the following:
- The development, procurement, manufacture and approval of vaccines during the pandemic, including the effectiveness of UK-wide decision-making, in particular, the role of the UK Vaccine Taskforce. What lessons can we learn from innovative practices that were successfully introduced during the pandemic for future pandemic preparedness?
- The development, trials and steps taken to enable the use of new therapeutics and repurposed medications during the pandemic.
- Vaccine delivery in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including roll-out procedures such as: arrangements on the ground and public messaging; Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommendations on eligibility / prioritisation and decisions taken by policy makers; the ethics of prioritisation decisions and impact on particular groups such as those with comorbidities. Vaccine as a Condition of Deployment, in particular its effectiveness in limiting transmission and impact on vaccine hesitancy.
- Barriers to vaccine uptake, including vaccine confidence and access issues and the effectiveness, timeliness and adequacy of Government planning for and response to inequalities relevant to vaccine uptake.
- Vaccine safety issues including post marketing surveillance, such as the Yellow Card monitoring and reporting system and a suggested correlation between Covid-19 vaccines and cardiovascular issues.
- Whether any reforms to the UK Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme are necessary.
The Traveller Movement and our legal representatives have already been working to gather evidence and bring the clear and pressing issues facing Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities to the attention of the Inquiry. We have identified the following issues, which are not exhaustive:
- Highlighting the long-standing issue of Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities not being included as distinct ethnicities within the NHS dictionary, leaving data deserts when it comes to understanding the Covid-19 and all other health-related issues and outcomes for our communities.
- Exploring available evidence on the levels of vaccine hesitancy present within Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities during the vaccine rollout and what the Government’s Covid-19 Taskforce did to ease concerns and effectively inform our communities with trusted facts and clear advice on a brand new vaccine.
- Exploring the levels of misinformation and distrust created and spread online, creating fear for those Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller community members deciding whether or not to take up the available vaccines at each stage of the rollout.
- Assessing the effectiveness and accessibility of the Government’s vaccine rollout for Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities, particularly those who are, to varying degrees digitally or geographically excluded.
- Reviewing the information provided by the Government on available therapeutics for those not wishing, or not able to take up the vaccines for health reasons because of immunosuppression or other health-related reasons.
On 13th September 2023, Marc Willers KC, under the instruction of Martin Howe of Howe & Co. gave an opening statement to the Inquiry. You can watch our address to the inquiry here
The Traveller Movement have also been working on other statements required for the Inquiry and will address the Inquiry again in February 2024, ahead of the series of full hearings due to take place in July 2024.
The Traveller Movement are incredibly pleased with the Inquiry’s decision to hear evidence specifically relating to Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities who we believe were forgotten about during the pandemic on almost every front. We want to reassure our communities and fellow organisations, that whilst this module relates specifically to ‘vaccines and therapeutics’, we will also be presenting our organisation’s witness evidence, which will present a much wider view of the pandemic from the perspective of Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities. Topics such as; domestic abuse, cost of living, exclusion from government support schemes, education and more will form part of this wider evidence.
Invitation to provide learnings and cases to the inquiry
In order for the Traveller Movement to fully represent the specific issues faced by Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities in the UK during the pandemic, we would kindly ask for you to share your findings, experiences and, where applicable, your cases with us to assist the Inquiry with forming a more accurate representation of our communities’ experiences. We are particularly interested in the following:
- Actions taken by your organisation to assist the vaccine roll-out and/ or to encourage the sharing of trusted information and advice on vaccine take-up.
- The barriers your organisation and your local Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities faced during the pandemic, either in relation to the vaccine roll-out or any other area of life that was displaced or impacted by the pandemic.
- Support programmes your organisation ran to assist with any area of life made difficult or elevated difficulty during the pandemic. For example, in education, health, relationships, finance, housing etc.
- Case studies and Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller voices of their experiences of the life during the pandemic.
If you would like to meet with us to better understand what information may be relevant or how best to share this information with us, please contact Joseph McCarron-Shipman TM Policy Manager at email@example.com or Declan O Driscoll Senior Advocacy Officer firstname.lastname@example.org
Every Story Matters
We are exceptionally keen to listen to all Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller voices throughout this process. The Inquiry is operating a research project entitled Every Story Matters running alongside the Inquiry to allow all communities, groups and individuals to come forward to share their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. As an organisation we are committed to contributing to this project, to effectively highlight the specific barriers experienced by Romani (Gypsy), Roma & Irish Traveller communities and ensure a powerful and collective voice is heard by the Inquiry.
For more information on how best to contribute to this project, please contact Joseph McCarron-Shipman at email@example.com or Declan O Driscoll firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to share this email with colleagues across the sector.