As we approach the longer nights of a year that has been blighted by the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that we might at last be able to glimpse light in the distance. Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna have now announced that they have covid vaccines that have an effectiveness of over 90% and which could be available as early as next month. The government has also confirmed that 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 5 million of the Moderna vaccine have been secured for use in the NHS. The announcements from these companies gives us hope as well of a successful completion for the trials of another vaccine which has been developed jointly by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The way we will beat the coronavirus is through vaccination against it, and effective testing and tracing of those who are at risk of being infected by it. I’m pleased that people in the UK could be amongst the first in the world to receive a covid vaccine.
In the House of Commons this week the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed that the vaccine will be made available to the most vulnerable people first, that includes older residents, those who have had to shield because of other pre-existing medical conditions, and people living in care homes. The government has also confirmed that when the NHS receives the vaccines, that they will be released to all parts of the country at the same time.
Last week I discussed how the covid vaccination programme will be delivered in our area, with Folkestone and Hythe District Council and a representative of the Folkestone GPs. Planning is underway which would allow this to begin as early as next month, with the exact dates depending on the time of the release of the vaccine. The recent local delivery of the winter flu vaccine to thousands of people in safe, outdoor and drive through settings, to reduce the risk of covid infection, has provided an excellent trial run for how the covid vaccine itself can also be administered.
In Parliament this week I have also raised with ministers how important it is that people have access to reliable medical information about the coronavirus vaccine. For too long, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories have been allowed to spread on social media, which have undermined some people’s confidence in all vaccines. If we want the COVID vaccine to help us defeat the virus as quickly as possible, so we can protect people from it, and open up our economy again, then we need as many people as possible to take it. The Government has been in discussions with companies like Facebook and YouTube, urging them to act against harmful disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine. I believe that these companies should not only remove examples of this that they have been notified about on their platforms, but also work to proactively identify it for themselves. The companies have a responsibility as well to prevent the amplification of these conspiracy theories, a process which enables them to reach millions of people on social media. Stopping coronavirus disinformation, especially about the vaccine, is an important task in defeating the virus altogether.