Nadhim Zahawi – 2021 Statement on Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment

The statement made by Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, in the House of Commons on 13 April 2021.

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention the contingent liabilities relating to the contracts signed between Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) and covid-19 vaccine suppliers for the phase 2 deployment of vaccines.

Today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its final advice about the next phase of the covid-19 vaccine deployment. In line with its interim advice, it has recommended an age-based strategy for prioritisation as the best way to further reduce mortality and hospitalisations.

The JCVI has advised that rapid vaccine deployment is the most important means to maximise public health benefits against severe outcomes from covid-19. There is good evidence that the risks of hospitalisation and critical care admissions from covid-19 increase with age, and that in occupations where the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 is potentially higher, persons of older age are also those at highest risk of severe outcomes from covid-19. It is for these reasons that the Committee has recommended that the offer of vaccination be age-based, starting with the oldest adults first, and proceeding in the following order to facilitate rapid deployment:

All those aged 40 to 49 years

All those aged 30 to 39 years

All those aged 18 to 29 years

Throughout the vaccination programme the independent regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA), has published data on the effects and side effects of the vaccine. It has independently assessed that all three vaccines in use in the UK are safe and effective. The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation have reached the same conclusion. Having considered this data, which has been published, and in order to make the vaccine programme as safe as it possibly can be, the JCVI advises that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 years without underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe covid-19 disease, to be offered an alternative vaccine, if available.

The JCVI has weighed the relative balance of benefits and risks, and advises that the benefits of prompt vaccination with the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of adverse events for individuals 30 years of age and over and those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe covid-19 disease. The Government have accepted this advice in full, and the rollout will put this advice into operation.

With the deployment of phase 2, I am now updating the House on the liabilities Her Majesty’s Government have taken on in relation to further vaccine supply via this statement and the departmental minute available as an online attachment.

It has been and remains the Government’s strategy to manage covid-19 until an effective vaccine or vaccines can be deployed at scale. Putting in place appropriate indemnities for vaccine suppliers has helped to secure access to vaccines much sooner than may have been the case otherwise.

Given the exceptional circumstances we are in, and the terms on which developers are willing to supply a covid-19 vaccine, we along with other nations have taken a broad approach to indemnification proportionate to the situation we are in.

Even though the covid-19 vaccines have been developed at pace, at no point and at no stage of development has safety been bypassed. The independent MHRA’s approval for use of the currently deployed vaccines clearly demonstrates that these vaccines have satisfied, in full, all the necessary requirements for safety, effectiveness, and quality. We are providing indemnities in the unexpected event of any adverse reactions that could not have been foreseen through the robust checks and procedures that have been put in place.

I will update the House in a similar manner as and when other covid-19 vaccines are deployed.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-04-13/HCWS911/