THE current crisis has thrown a lot of things into sharp relief – inequality, sustainability, how we treat our planet and each other, and what is important. One thing that Covid-19 has surely brought home to people is the importance of expertise, and the importance of science. It seems a lifetime ago that the likes of Michael Gove could airily say “people have had enough of experts”, elevating the worst sort of pub (or online) blawhard to the same status as someone with actual expertise. Much as the blawhard-in-chief in the White House is trying his best, hopefully most people see through the nonsense and understand some opinions really are more worthwhile than others.

So I’ve always been a fan of experts. In my years in elected politics I’ve always been struck by how the more you know about something, the less definite about it you become; the more nuance you understand, the more nuanced your own expression of a subject has to be, and how anyone with a black-and-white view of a matter tends not to have much of an understanding of it. But I’ve also seen, especially in recent years, that people yearn for easy answers, quick solutions, even if they don’t actually work. Vote Leave, Take Control, Make America Great Again etc etc. Our modern technology has made what used to be fringe conspiracy theories look and sound mainstream, and there is an appetite for them. Well, we need to face this down – with facts, with rational argument and with leadership.

Scotland can be that voice, working with our friends and neighbours for rationality and compassion in the world. The last week of April each year has been designated by the UN as World Immunisation Week, which aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. As we search desperately for a Covid-19 vaccine it is worth remembering that immunisation of other diseases saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need. This is all the more scandalous given they are readily available.

The theme this year is #VaccinesWork for All and the campaign will focus on how vaccines – and the people who develop, deliver and receive them – are heroes by working to protect the health of everyone, everywhere. The main goal of the campaign is to urge greater engagement around immunisation globally and the importance of vaccination in improving health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life.

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This year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners aim to: demonstrate the value of vaccines for the health of children, communities and the world; show how routine immunisation is the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage; highlight the need to build on immunisation progress while addressing gaps, including through increased investment in vaccines and immunisation; and highlight nurses and midwives for their crucial role as early vaccine champions for new parents and parents-to-be.

So let’s get behind it. I have written a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging him to get behind the campaign. Unicef has helped vaccinate almost half the world’s children, but despite this, 13 million children around the world remain unvaccinated, and 1.5 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The UK has made a commitment to the health and wellbeing of children around the world, and we must ensure that we never shy away from doing what we can to stop the needless, preventable deaths of children. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has committed to immunising

300 million children over the next five years, which could save up to eight million lives. The work of organisations like these has never been more important, and through investing in active projects like Gavi, the UK can live up to a renewed commitment to ensure immunisation to preventable diseases is accessible to all. Gavi is asking for critical funding by June 4 to protect and rebuild health and immunisation systems, ensuring populations remain resilient to infectious diseases.

Gavi is also leading the global response to coronavirus, working to fast-track the development of a coronavirus vaccine, and taking urgent action to ensure the poorest countries will have access to an affordable vaccine when it becomes available.

As we begin to face down the challenge that coronavirus poses to public health in our own country, we must give every support to those in the rest of the world that are still fighting to tackle the disease with fewer resources and less expertise than we enjoy. The work of organisations like Gavi in the coming months will become more vital still in ensuring that we beat the virus for everyone and forever.

Because no country is an island. In the face of a global pandemic, the reality that we really are all in this together hits home, and our neighbours’ problems are ours too. Scotland in the world can be that voice of solidarity, and I hope the UK Government will heed our call.