After failings in the test-and-trace system, experts said ministers had to maintain the public’s trust that the vaccine is safe and effective.
They also emphasised that good access to the vaccine is crucial, including for black and ethnic minority communities and people from deprived backgrounds where the epidemic has hit hard.
However, the Government will now have to deliver an unprecedented vaccination programme at speed, if regulators give one or more vaccines approval, with up to a million jabs a week.
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on vaccinations for all, said: “It’s great to see progress with this vaccine but the Government has got one shot to get it right and must maintain the public’s trust in the safety and effectiveness of any Covid vaccine and fair access to them.”
In the latest developments today:
- Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19, said governments needed to show “total openness, honesty, transparency” when communicating with millions of people about the vaccine. Dr Nabarro, the co-director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, also emphasised that it must be available to people regardless of wealth or background.
- England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he had encouraged his mother to be ready to take a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible. He told a briefing: “I think the ‘mum test’ is very important here. My mum is 78, she will be 79 shortly, and I have already said to her, ‘mum, make sure when you are called you are ready, be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age’.”
- Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, warned that the roll-out could overwhelm practices and delay other treatments unless they are given extra staff.
- Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Imperial College London’s Covid-19 vaccine effort, said: “Vaccines are exceptionally safe medicines and they prevent really serious disease.”
- Britain’s drugs regulator chief June Raine said: “Although we have adapted our processes to undertake our rigorous review of effectiveness and safety in a rolling way, there is absolutely no chance that we will compromise on standards of safety or effectiveness.”
- Hopes rose about a range of vaccines being able to tackle Covid today when the Russian Sputnik V vaccine was said to be 92 per cent effective.
- Layla Moran MP, chair of the all-party MPs group on Coronavirus, said the Government risked a third wave of the virus next year if it put too much store in the vaccine: “The virus is still not under control in the UK, yet alone suppressed.
Military chiefs are helping the NHS with the logistical operation to roll out a vaccine. On the anxiety among some people about having it, Dr Nabarro said: “The approach to communication on the Covid-19 vaccine issue must be very carefully thought-through globally, not just talking about Britain, so that there is total openness, honesty, transparency so that trust can be maintained.”
While not wishing to comment on specific countries, he added: “In every setting, one of the things that we always have to do is to make sure that things that are good for health are available for all regardless of wealth, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of sex, regardless of any other defining variable.”
Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Science, said he was concerned about the need to store the Pfizer vaccine at -70c to -80C and said it was vital to get the distribution strategy right from the start.
He added: “We shouldn’t downplay the fact that this is very good news but this is a restriction — not insurmountable, but it does restrict the number of centres that are going to be able to deliver this vaccine. That -80C storage is not readily available, certainly not in GP practices. It’s going to have to be from centres somewhere else, I would think… I hope there will be other vaccines in the pipeline that won’t require that -80C storage. The preference would be to store it in a fridge, like many other vaccines.”