Vaccine Roll-out

Huw Merriman Excerpts
Thursday 21st January 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if he will make a statement on the covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

Matt Hancock Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock) [V]
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We are in the midst of one of the toughest periods of this pandemic. Yesterday saw 1,820 deaths, which is the highest toll since the crisis began. As we endure these dark days and the restrictions that we must all follow to save lives, we know that we have a way out, which is our vaccination programme. Thanks to the hard work of so many people, we now have an immense infrastructure in place, which day by day is protecting the most vulnerable and giving hope to us all.

I am glad to report to the House that we have now given more than 5 million doses of the vaccine across the UK to 4.6 million people. We are making good progress towards our goal of offering everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 their first dose by 15 February. That is a huge feat, and one in which we can all take pride. We are vaccinating at a greater daily rate than anywhere in Europe—twice the rate of France, Spain or Germany.

The first 5 million doses are only the beginning. We are opening more sites all the time in cathedrals, food courts, stadiums, conference centres, GP surgeries and many, many other places. Today, a cinema in Aylesbury, a mosque in Birmingham and a cricket club in Manchester have all come on board as part of 65 pharmacy-led sites across England that are joining our vaccination programme this week. That ongoing expansion will help us protect even more of the most vulnerable even quicker. From today, we will also publish more localised, granular data, broken down by NHS sustainability and transformation partnership area, as well as by region, so that the public have the best possible information about all this work.

This virus is a lethal threat to us all. As we respond through this huge endeavour, let us all take comfort in the fact that we are giving 200 vaccinations every minute. In the meantime, everyone must follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives. We can do that safe in the knowledge that the tide will turn and that, with science, we will prevail.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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Mr Speaker, thank you very much for granting this urgent question. I also thank the Secretary of State for his update and for all the time and devotion he gives to this matter, and the vaccines Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who is doing an amazing job. Everyone is doing an amazing job across the country to roll out this vaccine, and I absolutely salute them all. They include my Westminster office manager, Iona Cullen-Stephenson, who has been vaccinating.

In my part of rural East Sussex, the vaccine has been slow to reach rural Rother, Battle and Heathfield residents. In the 200 square miles that I represent, only one surgery has been vaccinating. That has got better from this week, and I welcome that. I thank the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust team. Adam Doyle and his team have been amazing to MPs.

I have three question to the Secretary of State about rural areas. First, can we draw up a new vaccine contract for GPs that guarantees that they will receive only AstraZeneca, and not Pfizer, which they find difficult to store? Many GPs in my area tell me that they will sign the contract if they can get AstraZeneca only, so it would be just like the pharmacy contract.

Secondly, we will soon have the welcome challenge of delivering the vaccine to priority groups 5 to 9. At the same time, we will have to deliver the second dose to the priority 1 to 4 cohort, who are more vulnerable. Can we ensure that the latter priority groups go to the hubs, because those groups will find it easier to travel, and that we use our local GP surgeries to re-dose priority groups 1 to 4?

Thirdly, I know that the Government rely on the manufacturers for supplies, but can we try to give more forward-looking supply levels to our county teams so that they have indicative estimates to enable them to plan better on the ground?

I welcome the statement from the Government. I would ask that colleagues be given an opportunity every week to question members of the Government. We receive updates from our own community teams, and it is surely right that we should be able to put the same questions and ideas to the Front Benchers.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Before I bring in the Secretary of State, I will just say that this is your UQ, rather than Government coming forward with a statement. We have had to ask for it.