Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petitions 575801 and 577842, relating to Covid-19 vaccination.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ghani. I am glad that we have another opportunity to discuss vaccinations in this House. I thank the NHS, pharmacists and volunteers in Carshalton and Wallington, and across the UK, for making our vaccination programme such a huge success. I particularly thank Reena from SG Barai Pharmacy in Carshalton and Wallington for administering my covid-19 vaccinations.
I welcome the Minister to her place; I believe this is the first debate she is responding to as Minister. I have always found her to be nothing but courteous and friendly, so I wish her all the very best in her new role.
I draw the House’s attention to the Government’s responses to the petitions, which set out clearly that they are thinking carefully about such matters as certification and vaccine status, and are considering all issues prior to making a decision. I am sure the Minister will want to elaborate on them in her response to the debate, so I will not steal all her material. This debate gives us the opportunity to discuss vaccinations once again, so I want to use it to urge everyone to book their slot for vaccinations as soon as they possibly can. I particularly welcome the news today that we are beginning our booster jabs programme, which I am sure the Minister will want to touch on.
Covid has not gone away. Although we are unlocking and rediscovering many of the freedoms that we have sacrificed over the past 18 months, people are still being hospitalised and dying from coronavirus. The data speaks for itself: the majority of those hospitalised and dying from covid-19 have not been fully vaccinated. It is clear that by getting vaccinated, we are protecting not only ourselves but others, and are playing our part in bringing an end to this pandemic.
Vaccines truly are a marvel of modern medicine. We can be proud that they were discovered by a Brit, Edward Jenner, who demonstrated that a mild infection with a cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. Cowpox served as the natural vaccine for smallpox until more modern vaccines were brought out in the 19th century, which laid the groundwork for the system of vaccinations that we know today. Smallpox remains the only virus considered to be eradicated internationally since 1980.
Since Jenner’s discovery of vaccines as we know them today, vaccines have been developed and have helped to offer immunity to a whole range of virus, such as measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, tetanus, polio, diphtheria, yellow fever, rabies, hepatitis, poliomyelitis, meningitis, and so many more. It is easy, therefore, to take vaccines for granted, but I invite the House to consider how much of an impact they have had on the world. Those illnesses would once have struck dread, fear and anguish into the hearts of the patients who were diagnosed with them, yet today our lives are quietly unaffected by those horrors. We go about our day unworried by them, thanks to the seemingly simple concept of a jab that is over in a matter of seconds, which allows us to carry on our lives, protected and healthy.
These miraculous vaccines must pass extremely rigorous testing before they are licensed for use in the United Kingdom. According to the Oxford Vaccine Group, the following are just some of the stages that a vaccine has to go through before use: a literature review to look at what has been done before; a theoretical development or innovation, coming up with a new idea or varying an existing one; and laboratory testing and development, involving in vitro testing using individual cells and in vivo testing, which often uses mice. A vaccine must then go through three stages of human trials before licensing and reviews, and then continue to be monitored after their approval for wider use to take note of any new developments.
Covid 19 vaccines have been no different. They have had to meet the same testing criteria. Yes, there have been questions about speed, but Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, has explained perfectly clearly how the UK has been particularly able to approve this vaccine so quickly. So my message to anyone who still has apprehensions about getting their covid-19 vaccine is this: please, please speak to your GP or pharmacist to get the facts. That is an important point: speak to the professionals with the years of knowledge and training.
We have all had a bit of a laugh over the past week and a half about Nicki Minaj and swollen testicles—something that I never thought I would say in the House of Commons—but that story raises a very serious issue. Rates of vaccination drop as we go down the age groups, and it is important that the Government find ways to reach younger people and encourage them to protect not only themselves, but others around them, by getting the vaccine. That is especially the case when they are being fed misinformation, downright lies, and mad conspiracy theories by people with hidden agendas who are in the pockets of well-funded and well-organised anti-vax movements. I agree with Professor Chris Whitty that those people are preventing others from getting their potentially life-saving vaccine, and they should be utterly ashamed of themselves. My message today is to urge everyone to speak to their doctor and get themselves vaccinated in order to protect themselves and those around them, and help to bring an end to this awful pandemic.