The incredible vaccine rollout taking place across the UK has given us cause for hope, especially for the year ahead.
Today, many families across the country, including mine, are celebrating Newroz – an occasion that marks the arrival of spring and the start of a new year.
For Kurds like me, Iranians, Afghans and many more, Newroz is one of the most important times of the year. It is traditionally celebrated by visiting your loved ones and sharing sweets, pastries and tea with the many visitors who come knocking on your door.
Now is the time for renewed hope and the search for new beginnings. The story behind Newroz is about overcoming hardships and celebrating freedom – which is all the more moving this year, all the years.
I have fond memories of hosting the annual Newroz reception in the Houses of Parliament and celebrating with my community. For me, it is a particularly special day because it is the day that my father proposed to my mother.
But with the current pandemic and national restrictions in place in the UK, I recognize that it won’t be quite the same. Many of us, myself included, will yearn for a time when we can be with our families and remember those we have lost this year to this terrible virus.
As the UK’s Vaccine Deployment Minister, there is one thing I am certain of: it is the vaccine that will bring us back to normal. This is how we will protect our communities, our friends, our family and all of our loved ones.
The incredible vaccine rollout taking place across the UK has given us cause for hope, especially for the year ahead. With over 26 million people receiving their first doses and in cash, I have no doubts that we will put this pandemic behind us, one shot at a time.
The success of our deployment is a huge testament to the extraordinary effort of our National Health Service (NHS), the volunteer army and the local communities who have come together to protect our loved ones.
My team and I are also working closely with religious leaders, community organizations and charities to make sure we are doing all we can to protect our communities from the coronavirus and get as many people vaccinated as possible.
We provide access to advice from the NHS, clinicians and experts at every possible opportunity to help people receiving the vaccine and anyone who may have questions about how to get the vaccine.
I know some people are worried about what’s in vaccines and whether they’re halal. But the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed that there were no animal products in the vaccines and imams declared them halal.
I am delighted to have received my jab yesterday. I want to urge you all to encourage your family and friends, when the time comes, to accept the offer of a vaccine. AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are safe and effective. The MHRA and its European counterpart, the European Medicines Agency, reassured us that the benefits of both vaccines in preventing transmission and saving lives far outweigh the risks.
Spring is the season of renewal and new beginnings and I hope the vaccine will help put this terrible winter behind us and breathe new life into our country.
So to all those celebrating today, Newroz Pîroz Be and my warmest wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.