I am aware of that, but the point I am making is that the yellow card scheme is not a determining factor of damage done by the vaccine; there is no way to prove a causal link, as the reported reaction could have happened anyway. The worldwide awareness of covid, its blanket media coverage over multiple years, and the impact it has had on all our lives, are bound to have led to an increase in reports from previous vaccine roll-outs. Most reports relate to injection site reactions, including a sore arm and generalised symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms, illness, headache, chills, fatigue, nausea, fever, dizziness, weakness, aching muscles or rapid heartbeat. Generally, those reactions are not associated with more serious illness and likely reflect an expected, normal immune response to vaccines.
There have been some occurrences of inflammatory heart conditions following a covid-19 vaccination, but fortunately they are incredibly rare. For Pfizer, the suspected myocarditis reporting rate is 12 reports per 1 million doses. For suspected pericarditis, including viral pericarditis and infective pericarditis, the overall reporting rate is eight reports per 1 million doses. For Moderna, that is 42 per million, and for AstraZeneca four per million.
The events reported are typically mild, with individuals usually recovering within a short time, following standard treatment and rest. The benefits of the vaccines in protecting against covid-19 and the serious complications associated with it far outweigh any currently known side effects. I understand that one of the biggest concerns about vaccine safety is the potential influence on excess deaths. Of course, the excess mortality rates have increased. However, there is no evidence to prove a causal relationship between a spike in excess deaths and covid-19. I am not clinically trained, so I do not wish to preach in this debate, but multiple drivers could have caused the spike, including the impact of missed and delayed diagnoses earlier in the pandemic, and the long-term impact of covid-19 on people who contracted it; and that has been confirmed to me by the MHRA.
In one study this year, researchers estimated how often covid-19 leads to cardiovascular problems. They found that people who had the disease faced a substantially increased risk for 20 cardiovascular conditions in the year after infection with coronavirus. Researchers say that such complications can happen even in people who seem to have completely recovered from a mild infection. With millions—perhaps even billions—of people having been infected with the virus, clinicians are wondering whether the pandemic will be followed by a cardiovascular aftershock. Again, I am not clinically trained, but I wanted to touch on that point to provide some food for thought, because I understand that the issues around excess mortality rates are of extreme importance.
Easily the biggest elephant in the room while discussing the safety of the covid-19 vaccine and a potential inquiry into its safety is that the Government have already announced a public inquiry into their handling of the covid-19 pandemic as a whole. Since the Government responded to the petition, the terms of reference for the UK covid-19 public inquiry have been published by the Cabinet Office. One of the inquiry’s aims is to examine
“The response of the health and care sector across the UK…including the development, delivery and impact of therapeutics and vaccines”.
The first preliminary hearing of module 1 of the inquiry took place just a few weeks ago, with the second due to take place next Monday. The inquiry will further announce modules in 2023 that are expected to cover both system and impact issues, including vaccines, therapeutics and antiviral treatment. I would be grateful if the Minister could shed a bit more light on the aim of the content of the modules that will be investigating the vaccines, and if she could provide more details on how others can contribute towards the process, including those who signed the petition.
I will bring my comments to a close because other Members wish to contribute. I appreciate that for some people the question of whether the covid-19 vaccine is safe is still up in the air, and I understand that my comments may not easily persuade them otherwise. However, we know that vaccines are the best way to protect against covid-19 and they have already saved tens of thousands of lives. I hope that I can offer some reassurance to those who are unsure about this matter that the right steps were taken to ensure that vaccines were safe prior to roll-out, and that vaccines continue to be monitored for their safety and effectiveness. I hope that they can also be reassured by the Minister’s remarks that the Government are including an extensive investigation into the vaccine as part of their covid-19 public inquiry, and that separate investigation is not necessary.