With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the covid-19 vaccine delivery plan. The plan, published today, sets out the strategies that underpin the development, manufacture and deployment of our vaccines against covid-19. It represents a staging post in our national mission to vaccinate against the coronavirus, and a culmination of many months of hard work from the NHS, our armed forces, Public Health England, and every level of local government in our Union. There are many miles to go on this journey, but, armed with this plan, our direction of travel is clear.
We should be buoyed by the progress that we are already making. As of today, in England, 2.33 million vaccinations have been given, with 1.96 million receiving their first dose and 374,613 having already received both doses. We are on track to deliver our commitment of offering a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month. These are groups, it is worth reminding ourselves, that account for more than four out of every five fatalities from the covid virus, or some 88% of deaths. But of course this is a delivery plan for everyone—a plan that will see us vaccinate all adults by the autumn in what is the largest programme of vaccination of its kind in British history.
The UK vaccines delivery plan sets out how we can achieve that noble, necessary and urgent goal. The plan rests on four key pillars: supply, prioritisation, places and people. On supply, our approach to vaccines has been to move fast and to move early. We had already been heavily investing in the development of new vaccines since 2016, including funding a vaccine against another coronavirus: middle east respiratory syndrome. At the start of this year, this technology was rapidly repurposed to develop a vaccine for covid-19, and in April we provided £20 million of further funding so that the Oxford clinical trials could commence immediately. Today, we are the first country to buy, authorise and use that vaccine.
Also in April, we established the UK Government’s Vaccine Task Force, or VTF for short, and since then it has worked relentlessly to build a wide portfolio of different types of vaccine, signing early deals with the most promising prospects. It is a strategy that has really paid off. As of today, we have secured access to 367 million doses from seven vaccine developers with four different vaccine types, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which we were also the first in the world to buy, authorise and use. The VTF has also worked on our homegrown manufacturing capability, including what is referred to as the “fill and finish” process, in collaboration with Wockhardt in Wrexham. Anticipating a potential global shortage early on, we reserved manufacturing capacity to allow for the supply of multiple vaccines to the United Kingdom. Like many capabilities in this pandemic, it is one that we have never had before, but one that we can draw on today. So much of that critical work undertaken early has placed us in a strong position for the weeks and months ahead.
The second pillar of our plan is prioritisation. As I set out earlier, essential work to protect those at the greatest clinical risk is already well under way. The basic principle that sits behind all of this is to save as many lives as possible as quickly as possible. In addition, we are working at speed to protect staff in our health and social care system. All four UK chief medical officers agree with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to prioritise the first doses for as many people on the priority list as possible and administer second doses towards the end of the recommended vaccine dosing schedule of 12 weeks. That step will ensure the protection of the greatest number of at-risk people in the shortest possible time.
The third pillar of our plan is places. As of yesterday, across the United Kingdom, we have more than 2,700 vaccination sites up and running. There are three types of site. First, we have large vaccination centres that use big venues such as football stadiums; we saw many of those launched today. At these, people will be able to get appointments using our national booking service. The second type is our hospital hubs, working with NHS trusts across the country. The third is our local vaccination services, which are made up of sites led by GPs working in partnership with primary care trusts and, importantly, with community pharmacists.
This mix of different types of site offers the flexibility that we need to reach many different and diverse groups and, importantly, to be able to target as accurately as we can. By the end of January, everyone will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site. In a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit. It bears repeating that, when it is their turn, we want as many people as possible to take up the offer of a vaccine against covid-19.
The fourth and final pillar is, of course, our people. I am grateful to the many thousands who have joined this mission—this national mission. We now have a workforce of some 80,000 people ready to be deployed across the country. This includes staff currently working within the NHS of course, but also volunteers through the NHS Bring Back Staff scheme, such as St John Ambulance personnel, independent nurses and occupational health service providers. There are similar schemes across the devolved Administrations.
Trained vaccinators, non-clinical support staff such as stewards, first aiders, administrators and logistics support will also play their part. We are also drawing on the expertise of our UK armed forces, whose operational techniques—brought to life by Brigadier Phil Prosser at the press conference with the Prime Minister a few days ago—have been tried and tested in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. I am sure the whole House will join me in thanking everyone who has played their part in getting us to this point, and all those who will play an important role in the weeks and months ahead.
We recognise that transparency about our vaccine plan will be central to maintaining public trust, and we are committed to publishing clear and simple updates. Since 24 December, we have published weekly UK-wide data on the total number of vaccinations and the breakdown of over and under-80s for England. From today, we are publishing daily data for England showing the total number vaccinated to date. The first daily publication was this afternoon. From Thursday, and then weekly, NHS England will publish a more detailed breakdown of vaccinations in England, including by region.
This continues to be a difficult time for our country, for our NHS and for everyone as we continue to live under tough restrictions, but we have always known that a vaccine would be our best way out of this evil pandemic, and that is the road we are now taking. We are under no illusion as to the scale of the challenge ahead and the distance we still have to travel. In more normal times, the largest vaccination programme in British history would be an epic feat, but against the backdrop of a global pandemic and a new, more transmissible variant, it is a huge challenge. With this House and indeed the whole nation behind this national mission, I have every confidence that it will be a national success. I commend this statement to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister for advance sight of his statement.
We meet today at a challenging moment in the handling of the pandemic. We have growing infection rates, we are in lockdown, businesses are shut and schools are closed, and tragically more than 80,000 people have already lost their lives to this awful virus. The vaccine provides us with a light, a glimmer of hope, and a way to beat the virus, saving lives and getting us back to normal.
The Government succeeded in the development of a vaccine—investing in multiple candidates has paid off handsomely—but a vaccine alone does not make a vaccination programme. Given the Government’s failures with the test and trace system and the procurement of personal protective equipment, it is right that we scrutinise the plans carefully.
The plan is quite conventional: aside from the new big vaccination centres, it uses traditional delivery mechanisms operating within traditional opening and access times. The Opposition have some concerns about that, as we believe that exceptional circumstances call for an exceptional response. At the No. 10 briefing earlier today, 24/7 access was said to be something that people would not be interested in, which surprised me; I would like to hear from the Minister the basis for that view.
Similarly, there is the mass deployment of community spaces and volunteer mobilisation unprecedented in peacetime. It is the Government’s prerogative to choose their approach, but I am keen to hear from the Minister assurance that the plan as written and set out today will deliver on what has been promised: the top four priority categories covered by the middle of next month. On a recent call, the Minister said that the only limiting factor on the immunisation programme would be the speed of supply. Will he publicly reaffirm that and confirm that this plan will make maximum use of the supply as he expects to get it?
I think we would all agree that our frontline NHS and social care heroes deserve to be protected. At the beginning of the pandemic, our staff were left for too long without adequate personal protective equipment, and we must not repeat that with the vaccine. Protecting them is the right thing to do, reflecting the risks that they face, but it is also pragmatically a point of emphasis for us, because we need them to be well in order to keep doing the incredible job that they are doing.
We are currently missing about 46,000 NHS staff for covid reasons. The health and social care workforce are in category 2 in the plan, but there does not seem to be a national-level emphasis on inoculating them immediately. There seems to be significant variation between trust areas. Will the Minister commit today to meeting our demand that they all get their vaccines within the next fortnight? We very much welcome the clear and simple metrics that he is going to publish each day so that we can follow the successes of the programme, but as part of that, will he commit to publicising the daily total of health and care staff vaccinated, so that we can see the progress being made against that vital metric, too?
It was reassuring to see pharmacies included in the plan. They are at the heart of all the communities in our country, they are trusted and they already deliver mass vaccinations. It was disappointing and surprising to see them having to take to the front pages of national newspapers last week to get the Government’s attention, but now, with them in the plan, will the Minister reassure the House that he is fully engaged with their representative bodies and that they are satisfied that they are being used properly? The number that has been trailed publicly is of 200 participating pharmacies, but given that there are 11,500 community pharmacies in England, can that really be right? Why are there not more involved, or is that number wrong? If so, could the Minister share with us what the number is? On social care, 23% of elderly care home residents have been vaccinated, compared with 40% of the over-80s more generally. Given their top prioritisation, is there a reason for this lag? What plans are there to close the gap? Is the Minister confident that all care home residents will be vaccinated by the end of the month, as promised?
Finally, there has been a high level of consensus across this place, and certainly between the Minister and me, on misinformation, and we will support the Government in whatever they think they need to do to tackle it. We will have a real sense of the impacts of misinformation as the programme rolls along, particularly as we look at who is and is not declining the vaccine. Will the Minister tell us what he will be monitoring in that regard, and what the early feedback is, perhaps from our own care staff, on who has been saying yes and who has been saying no and what that might mean for the future?
We welcome the fact that the Government have published this plan. We will back them when we think they are right but we will continue to offer constructive ways to improve the process, as I hope I have just done. I hope that the Minister can address the points that I have raised.
I am grateful for the hon. Member’s backing and support. He asks a number of important questions, and I will attempt to answer them now. Suffice it to say that it would be sensible for us to recognise that test and trace now delivers 85% of those who are tested positive in terms of identifying their direct contacts and the indirect contacts at between 92% and 96%. Over 5 million people have been tested and isolated and are therefore not transmitting or spreading this virus, and 55 million people have been tested. That is a pretty major undertaking, with capacity now touching 770,000 and tests running at about 600,000 a day. From a standing start of about 2,000 a day back in March, that is a pretty remarkable achievement for NHS test and trace.
The hon. Gentleman asked about 24-hour provision. There are two priorities for the NHS, and we have looked really long and hard at this. Priority No. 1 is obviously to target very closely those four most vulnerable categories. Priority No. 2 is to try to get a vaccination to them as quickly as possible, which is about throughput. This is linked because if we were to go to a 24-hour regime, it would be much harder to target the vaccine at those four cohorts. Obviously, when we have limited vaccine volume, we do not want staff standing around waiting for people in centres that are open 24 hours. Also, many of those people are over 80, and we are going into care homes to vaccinate the residents of those homes. The decision to go from 8 to 8 was made because we want to ensure that there is an even spread and very close targeting.
That is linked to throughput—how many vaccinations can we get into people’s arms as quickly as possible? We do not want vaccines sitting in fridges or on shelves. That goes to the hon. Gentleman’s question on the 24 hours, but also the pharmacy question. All the 200 pharmacies that we are operationalising can do 1,000-plus vaccinations a week, so the focus in phase 1, certainly with the first four categories—and, I think, with the total nine categories—is very much on targeting and throughput. The 2,700 sites are the best way that we can target that. Obviously, primary care is very good at identifying those who are most vulnerable or over 80 and, of course, getting into care homes, hence why the NHS plan and the plan we have published today are very much based around those priorities.
As we enter phase 2, where we begin to want to vaccinate as many adults as quickly as possible, we want convenience of course. We want to be able to go into many more pharmacies, so people can walk to their local pharmacy, or GP, and get their jab, when we have limitless volumes of vaccines. We have clearly now got that optioned and it will come through in the weeks and months ahead. That is the reason for that. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the limiting factor continues at this stage to be vaccine volumes. The NHS has built an infrastructure that can deploy the vaccine as quickly as possible, but it is vaccine volumes that will change. With any new manufacturing process, especially one where we are dealing with quite a complex process—it is a biological compound that we are producing—it tends to be lumpy at the start, but it very quickly stabilises and becomes much more even. We are beginning to see that, which is good news.
We are absolutely committed to making sure the health and social care workforce are vaccinated as quickly as possible, and of course we are committed to making sure the residents of care homes are vaccinated by the end of this month—January. I reaffirm that commitment to the hon. Gentleman.
I think the hon. Gentleman’s final question was on data. I am glad that he agrees that it is important, because the Prime Minister’s absolute instruction to us as a team is that we have to make sure we publish as much data as possible as quickly as possible, hence why we have moved to a rhythm of daily data and on the Thursday more detailed publication, which will have regional breakdowns. The NHS is committed as it builds up more data to publish more and more. The nation expects, and rightly wants to see, the speed and the targeting that we are delivering, but I am confident that the NHS has a solid plan. We have the volunteers and the Army—two great institutions of this country—delivering this campaign and with the support of Her Majesty’s Opposition I am sure we will do this.
We now go to the Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt.
I congratulate the Minister on getting this programme off to a flying start: to vaccinate 2 million people, including a third of over-80s, six weeks after the first dose was approved is an extraordinary achievement unmatched by any similar country. May I ask him about the speed of the roll-out? Many people want teachers to be jabbed as quickly as possible, but is it the case that all those in groups 1 to 4 will need their second jabs before we can make real inroads into other key groups? And will he publish the breakdown of numbers vaccinated not just by region but by local authority area, because a lot of people would like to know just how many people have been vaccinated in their local area?
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s compliment and this is only the start. I hope that, as we progress in the weeks and months to come, the focus and the rate of output will continue to rise.
My right hon. Friend raises an important point around the critical workforce for the economy, like teachers. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation looked at all these issues and has come out very clearly in favour of us vaccinating the nine cohorts that are most vulnerable to dying from covid-19, hence why that is absolutely our focus.
We are absolutely committed to making sure that people get two doses, so if they have received their Pfizer first dose, they will get their Pfizer second dose within 12 weeks of the first dose. Similarly, if they have had their AstraZeneca first dose, they will get their AstraZeneca second dose within 12 weeks. So those people whom we will begin to reach in March, where we have to deliver their second dose, will absolutely get their second dose. But to my right hon. Friend’s point, the more vaccine volumes that will come, and we have tens of millions that will come through beyond February and into March, the faster we can begin to protect those nine categories in phase 1. The moment we have done that, then it is absolutely right that we should begin to look at categories like teachers and police officers—those who may be exposed in their workplace to the risks of this virus.
Of course, it is worth reminding the House that it is two weeks after the first dose, and three weeks after the first dose with AstraZeneca, that people begin to get that protection, not the moment they are jabbed, so there is that lag time as well. But my right hon. Friend’s point is well made: we need to make sure, as we protect greater and greater numbers of people in those nine categories, that we then move very quickly to the next dose.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was very clear that those who live in care homes were the top priority for vaccination against covid-19. Due to integration of health and social care, Scottish health boards were able to deliver the Pfizer vaccine into care homes in December, and well over 70% of such residents have already been vaccinated across Scotland. In my own health board, the phase is almost complete. So can the Minister explain why in England care home residents were not the first cohort to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December, and as only a quarter have received their first dose, when does he expect all such residents to have been vaccinated?
People over 80 years are now being offered vaccination, but there are only 1,200 sites to cover the whole of England—a similar number to Scotland, which has less than 10% of the population. This means elderly people are being asked to travel long distances, despite their age and the fact that many will be also shielding. As the letter does not offer the option to wait and have their vaccine at a local GP surgery, does the Minister recognise that many are now feeling pressurised into travelling, despite the current dangers? So will he take this opportunity to clarify that the vaccines will gradually be made available through all GP surgeries and that elderly patients who cannot travel long distances will be offered a further opportunity closer to home?
The Minister will be well aware of the public concern about the decision to delay the second dose of each vaccine so as to ensure more people receive the first dose more quickly. With the current surge in covid cases, I totally understand the rationale for this approach. So can he explain why there have been more than 300,000 additional second doses given over the last week, despite the JCVI announcement on 31 December, and can he guarantee that sufficient quantities of the Pfizer vaccine will be available by the end of February to ensure those given their first dose in early December will receive their booster on time?
There is a lot to unpack there; let me try to take the points in reverse. We can guarantee that those who have had their Pfizer vaccine will get their booster within the prescribed period of up to 12 weeks. The hon. Lady asked about those who have had a second jab already. Information went out to primary care networks and hospital hubs, saying that those who have an appointment up to 4 January should be able to have their appointment honoured. Beyond that, they have been working very closely with the NHS England team centrally, which we have been supporting with resources and actually phoning to postpone those appointments further; hence why we have protected many more people.
It is worth reminding the House that for every 250 people from the most vulnerable cohorts that we protect, we save a life. For every 20 people in care homes that we vaccinate, we save a life. The focus is therefore now very much on care homes. We began with the Pfizer vaccine into care homes. Of course, last week—on 4 January—we started to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is much easier to administer into care homes, especially for the roving teams. It had to spend two days in hospitals before it was released to primary care networks, but the moment it was released, it went into care homes and now some areas in England. We have about 10,000 care homes where we have to vaccinate residents and, of course, those who look after them. Some have done their care homes already; others are beginning to do the same thing. All will be done by the end of the month.
The hon. Lady talked about people having to travel long distances. I mentioned in my opening statement about the strategy that there will be 2,700 vaccination sites. I think she may have been confused about the figure of 1,200, which is the number of primary care networks, hospital hubs and large vaccination centres, but there will be 2,700 vaccination sites. By the end of the month, no one will be more than 10 miles away from a vaccination site.
I thank the Minister for being so assiduous in giving very thorough answers to the long and complicated series of questions that have already been put to him, but I must say to the House that we now have half an hour more for the rest of this statement, so I insist on having questions, not statements, from everyone. I specifically mention this to people who are coming in virtually, because they seem to lose a sense of timing when they are not here in the Chamber. A question means a question—just one question. I say to the Minister, who has been most assiduous, that where he has already given an answer to the question, I will not insist that he has to give the answer again because the person who is now asking it has not listened to his first answer.
I will be as quick as I can, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Some of my Beckenham constituents have contacted me to say that they think they should have had the vaccination already; two of them are in their 90s, so I am slightly alarmed. I am told that GPs are not necessarily the people to go to in order to ask what is happening, so I wonder who my constituents and I should go to when the system—inadvertently, perhaps—does not actually give out an appointment that it might have done.
My hon. Friend’s constituents will be contacted, either by their primary care network or by letter from the national booking service. They do not have to go to the national vaccination centre if that is inconvenient; they will be able to get their vaccination through their primary care network or the hospital hubs. I am very happy to take those particular two cases offline, look into them and give him some more details.
I would like to dig a bit deeper into the supply question. I had the privilege of visiting a GP surgery in my constituency on Friday, where I was told by the doctor in charge that they cannot book the next set of appointments because they do not know when they will get the next delivery of the vaccine. I have heard from other centres that they are not allowed to move on to the next cohort when they finish the under-80s, in order to ensure that there is equity across the country. The Minister has said that we cannot have 24/7 vaccinations because of supply. Is the supply issue the rate at which the product is being manufactured, the rate at which it is being packaged, the rate at which it is being batch tested, or the rate at which it is being distributed around the country?
The hon. Lady asks an important question. In any manufacturing process—especially a new one—it is always lumpier at the beginning, and there are more challenges. There are a number of tests done by both the manufacturer and the regulator; the batch testing at the end of the process is done by the regulator, to make sure that the batches meet the very high standards that we have in the United Kingdom. That will begin to become much smoother and stabilise, and we have a clear line of sight through to the end of February, hence why we are confident that we can meet the target of offering a vaccine to the top four most vulnerable cohorts on the list of nine from the JCVI by the middle of February.
We thank the hon. Lady’s local GPs, but it is important for them to remember that the central team that is doing the distribution is running at about 98.5% accuracy at the moment, which means that 1.5% of deliveries are not as we would like them to be. We will get better at that. As Brigadier Prosser said, this is like standing up a supermarket chain in a month and then growing it by 20% every couple of weeks. It will get better. The focus of the central team is to try to give primary care networks —GPs like hers—as much time and notice as possible, so that they can plan ahead and get the four cohorts in for their jabs. It is always difficult at the outset, but it gets better by the day and will do in the weeks ahead.
Would the Minister like to join me in thanking NHS staff in Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire for having vaccinated more than 15,000 people already? Could he also reassure my constituents who have received a letter from NHS England inviting them to have a vaccination in Birmingham or even Manchester—an hour and 45 minutes away—that if they wait just a few more days, they can choose, if they wish, to have a vaccination very locally?
I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating and thanking the heroes of the NHS and the volunteers in Telford and Wrekin and Shropshire for vaccinating 15,000 people—15,000 of the most vulnerable people to covid who, in a couple of weeks’ time, will have that protection. He is right, I can confirm, that anyone receiving a letter where it is inappropriate or not possible for them to travel that distance to a national vaccination centre does not have to do so. They will be able to be vaccinated in their primary care network at a time and place that is convenient to them. With the national vaccination centres—seven went live today, and there will be more next week, more the week after and 50 in total by the end of the month—we are trying to effectively add to the throughput that I described earlier.
I have some good news: my mother, who is 89 years young, had her vaccine at 9.40 this morning, so it is a happy day—I was going to sing it, but then it would start to rain, so it is not a good idea. What system is in place to ensure that if someone does not turn up for their vaccine, not one slot or vaccine goes to waste, and that a secondary list is immediately available with staff to substitute? At Dundonald hospital in Northern Ireland over the weekend, some people did not turn up, but they were able to call upon the midwives team to come forward. What policy is in place to make sure that the vaccine is not lost for use?
The people of Strangford will be pleased to hear that the hon. Member’s mother has got her first a dose of the vaccine. This is an important message to send to the whole country: if you are called up and have an appointment to get the vaccine, please turn up. This vaccine can protect your life. It can protect somebody else’s life. It is a shame to not turn up if you have booked an appointment. The NHS in England has made sure that the hospital hubs and primary care networks that have been vaccinating, and now the national vaccination centres, have on speed dial the care home workers and those on the frontline of the battle against covid who are in the JCVI’s top four cohorts, so that they can get them in as quickly as possible and not a single dose is wasted.
I thank my hon. Friend for his incredible tenacity on such an important project. Our local vaccine centre in Basingstoke serves six primary care networks across Hampshire, and under his plan, 20,000 over-75s should receive their first vaccination at this hub from our army of volunteers and local NHS staff in the next 35 days. Can my hon. Friend say how the large difference in patient numbers at each hub is factored in when vaccine supplies are dispatched? I reiterate the need for clinical commissioning group-level data to monitor progress. Can he more urgently reconsider the priority given to teachers, please?
I think I dealt with the question of teachers earlier, which is incredibly important. Phase one is to focus on those who are most vulnerable to dying from this disease. As soon as we get through that to phase two, teachers and other frontline services, including police officers and others, will be absolutely uppermost in our minds and those of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which helps us with that prioritisation.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of vaccine supply, and I know that her local vaccination service has done a tremendous job. There was a slight hiccup, if I can describe it as that, in making sure that they were recognised as six primary networks in the system. We rectified that, and I assure her that the volumes, certainly those of which I have line of sight, will mean that the service will receive plenty of vaccines to hit that target by mid-February of offering the top four cohorts the opportunity of the vaccine.
As of Friday, the staff in care homes in Walthamstow that serve a smaller community—those with fewer than 20 beds—tell me that not a single patient has had the vaccine or an invitation to get the vaccine. The Minister will be aware that the residents are very aware that they were promised the vaccine originally would come to them by the end of December. They feel like they are sitting ducks. With less than three weeks of January left, will the Minister pledge that all the residents in smaller care homes will at least get an invitation within the next week, so that they know when they will get the vaccine?
I think I shared the statistic with the House earlier that for every 20 residents of care homes that we vaccinate, we save a life. They are absolutely our priority. I give the hon. Lady this pledge: we will vaccinate or offer to vaccinate all residents of care homes by the end of the month. There are 10,000 care homes in England. Some areas of the country have already vaccinated all their care home residents. Others are beginning to. We will make sure that residents of care homes will by the end of this month be offered the opportunity of a vaccine.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the start to the vaccination programme. Local health leaders in Oxfordshire have made a great start, too, but they report a worrying trend of those from ethnic minorities not taking up the vaccine at the same rate as other groups. Can my hon. Friend set out his strategy to make sure that all our constituents take up this vital vaccine?
Information, information, information. I am working across Government to make sure that we communicate the benefits, both in terms of protecting the individual, but also in protecting the communities people come from. Working with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities is incredibly important as part of the overall strategy to focus our attention to make sure all those communities come forward, especially those who work in our care homes and care for residents. Many of those workers are from BAME communities. The more that they see people like themselves taking the vaccine and getting protected, the more effective our strategy is to deliver that protection to those communities.
Following on very closely from the previous question, does the Minister agree that one of the key ways in which we can counter some of the very virulent anti-vax and covid denial messages on social media, which are impacting particularly in some communities, needs to be through not just a myth-busting approach, but through peer-to-peer positive example messaging within local communities—within faith groups, between neighbours and in local social media networks? Can he make sure that he advises local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and others to promote examples of where people have had the vaccine, so that they can be shared to counter some of those more damaging messages?
The hon. Lady makes a really important point. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who reached out to me with his concerns for his community. Sadly, I see among the community that my wife and I come from that there is a lot of disinformation, and not only on social media. There is the very clever and, I should say, evil use of platforms such as WhatsApp to share videos that scare people into not having the vaccine.
The hon. Lady is right that local government and local public health leaders have a central role to play. We are engaging with them and, of course, making sure that local leaders throughout the United Kingdom are telling the story. She is right that the most effective way is for people to see someone like them taking the vaccine and being protected. We are doing that as well.
I thank my hon. Friend for all his work in making sure that the vaccine gets to all parts of the UK. I ask him to look in particular at how the roll-out is being managed by the health services in South Derbyshire. Sadly, compared to our neighbours in Erewash and Burton, so far only a very limited number of people have been called to a local site run by our GPs in conjunction with the clinical commissioning group.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I commit to looking specifically at the point she raises. The NHS in England has done an incredible job, but of course some teams have outperformed others. We have to learn from the best and make sure we share that knowledge. If some teams need additional resource and help, we will do that. That is why we have the additional 80,000 people in the programme who are ready to help and ready to make sure we get the jabs into the arms of the most vulnerable people.
For parts of Lancashire, the closest mass vaccination centre is more than 60 miles away in Manchester. The Minister has said that there will be more mass vaccination centres, so can he reassure my constituents that we will get a centre on the Fylde coast and in north Lancashire?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight the issue of distance. No one in her constituency or anywhere else in England will be more than 10 miles away from a vaccination site.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), I am starting to get queries about vaccinations from elderly residents. I am sure that this will expand as the roll-out progresses and people could be missed. What facilities is his Department putting in place to answer questions quickly from very worried constituents?
My hon. Friend will know that I have engaged with colleagues to dig deep into the issues their constituents may have with the vaccination programme. I am very happy to look at any cases she has. Through the combination of standing up hospitals, the primary care networks supported by community pharmacies and now the national vaccination centres, all residents within the four cohorts should be captured by the primary care services that know their communities really well. In case they are not, we are also engaging heavily with local government. One of the lessons of test and trace is to ensure that we engage with local government, because it knows its residents really well.
Before the recent spending review, the SNP called for an uplift in the NHS in England to bring per capita spending in line with Scotland, and thus provide billions to support the roll-out of the vaccine and build up capacity. The Treasury announced less than a third of what we had asked for. Does the Minister expect NHS England to be able to keep up with the vaccination demand, despite this lack of investment?
The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, was before the Public Accounts Committee today and I am sure that the hon. Lady will look at his answers. Suffice it to say that the Chancellor has made £6 billion available for the NHS family to make sure we deliver and deploy as fast as we can to the most vulnerable cohorts in our country.
The national roll-out is undoubtedly extremely impressive, but unfortunately the benefits are not yet being felt in Aylesbury. Residents are increasingly concerned that they have been left behind, and it has been extraordinarily difficult for Buckinghamshire’s MPs and council to get definite information about where and when vaccines will be available. Can my hon. Friend therefore confirm that vaccines will start to be available in Aylesbury in days rather than weeks?
Absolutely. We must ensure that his residents are within 10 miles of a vaccination site at the end of this month and as early as possible to get vaccinating. He is a great champion of his constituents, and I am happy to look at any specifics he may have, take those offline and come back to him.
The vaccination centre in Chesterfield—the largest town in Derbyshire—is opening only on Wednesday. It is clear from recent conversations with Derby and Derbyshire clinical commissioning group that we are not on target to have all vulnerable groups done by 15 February, and there is no centre at all in Staveley. What will happen between now and 15 February to get us from the current position to achieving the target the Minister has set, which we all so desperately want him to achieve? Will he also ensure that there is a centre in Staveley?
It is great to see the hon. Member looking fit and well; I wish him all the very best. He is right to say that we must ensure that every part of the country meets that target, offering those four cohorts the opportunity of a vaccine. We are looking to ensure that we publish more granular data—regional data—so that we can see which areas are not keeping up the pace and therefore direct resources to them, so that by mid-February they have made that offer.
I thank my hon. Friend for his statement and for his hard work on vaccine deployment. Many of my constituents have raised their concerns over the speed of vaccination roll-out in north Wales. Will he confirm the quantity of vaccine delivered to Wales so far? Will he also undertake to publish regular updates on the delivery of future batches so that it can be clear where bottlenecks in the roll-out are occurring?
We work closely with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments on the programme and ensure that we deliver the vaccine volumes to them. Although we do not publish the exact quantities of vaccine for a variety of reasons—including that the whole world is looking to get more volume of vaccines and we do not want to disadvantage ourselves in any way commercially—I reassure my hon. Friend that all the devolved Administrations will have enough to be able to offer those four JCVI cohorts the opportunity to be vaccinated and protected by mid-February, at least with a first dose.
Teachers in Vauxhall are working tirelessly to manage the delivery of classrooms online as well as teaching the most vulnerable key worker children in our schools. The Minister highlighted earlier that he will prioritise those most likely to die and that he will keep teachers at the forefront of his mind. Can I please ask him why teachers and school staff on the frontline of the pandemic are not being protected? What is the timeline for getting them vaccinated?
I thank all the teachers in Vauxhall and the rest of the country for the work they are doing on online education as well as teaching children from the most vulnerable families and the children of our NHS and social care staff on the frontline. The hon. Member is right to highlight the issue. Some teachers—those who are clinically vulnerable, for example—will be captured in the nine cohorts set out for us by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, as will those in the right age groups in categories one to nine. I give her the commitment that as soon as we are through phase one, the priority absolutely will be to ensure that those who are critical to the functioning of the future of our country—the future generations to come—are prioritised.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent start. In Newbury, we are due to receive our first doses later this week. The issue is one of information. All my constituents want to know is when the doses will be received and when their loved ones can expect to be contacted. May I invite my hon. Friend to work with NHS England to ensure that timely local information is made readily available going forward?
I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s concern. I give her that commitment. The team at NHS England is working and focusing on giving as much time and notice as possible to primary care and hospitals on when they get deliveries, so they can make those appointments and keep vaccinating those who are most vulnerable. That is exactly its priority at the moment.
Throughout the pandemic, community pharmacies have never closed—they really have been some of our unsung heroes. The Shields Gazette, my local paper, has launched its “Shot in the Arm” campaign. We want to know why the Minister will not allow all those experienced and dedicated community pharmacies to deliver the vaccine.
First of all, with respect, that is inaccurate. Community pharmacies are already part of the primary care networks that are delivering the vaccines. I have also made very clear in the strategy that there will be 200 community and independent pharmacies as part of the vaccination programme in phase one, where we need that volume and throughput. The community pharmacies that can do 1,000 vaccinations a week are very much part of the programme and we thank them for that. As we get to the next stage, where we have vaccines in limitless volumes, it is about convenience and ramping up the number of community pharmacies that can also join in the fight against covid.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on a remarkable start. I can confirm that in Calderdale we have already vaccinated more than 50% of the over-80s. Can I just press him on communication channels with patients and the vaccination process? We see GP surgeries giving out very little information. We have already heard about letters going out for the larger hubs, but people just do not understand what the process is. Could he work with GP surgeries and others, so that the general population can understand the process?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who always asks very important practical questions. He is absolutely right to say that it has been challenging. Part of the challenge, which I think we have addressed today, is the amount of notice primary care networks and GPs have of a delivery. That will only get better as we stabilise deliveries to the warehouses and are then able to take them out into the primary care networks and hospitals. I will of course work with primary care networks and the whole of the NHS family to make sure our communications get better and better.
In Salford, we receive little or no notice that a delivery of the vaccine from the Government is due. Some batches have not turned up at all. When they do arrive, we act quickly. It was therefore staggering when, late last night, our clinical commissioning group was instructed to cancel 924 pre-existing second dose Pfizer appointments, with little time to book new appointments before the batch expires at midday on Wednesday. Will the Minister now allow local CCGs to plan and order their own vaccine batches? Can he assure those whose time before their second Pfizer dose has been elongated that they will be 70% to 90% protected for up to 12 weeks?
I shall take the hon. Lady’s questions in reverse. The four chief medical officers have looked at the issue of the up-to-12-week dosing and all agree that it is the right thing to do. I apologise to the people Salford for that cancellation, if that is what happened yesterday. We have touched on this, but part of the issue has been the lumpiness in the deliveries in the early days, which will begin to become much smoother. The NHS central team, with Brigadier Prosser and the 101 Logistic Brigade, are absolutely focused on making sure that we give as much notice as possible to primary care networks so that they can plan ahead, and that will only get better and better as we smooth out the delivery process from manufacturer into warehouse.
The local NHS is doing a fantastic job of rolling out the vaccine to priority groups in Burney and Padiham, but some residents have contacted me because they are confused about what process they need to follow, so will my hon. Friend set out whether residents need to contact the national booking centre or are better to wait for their GP to contact them?
If people receive a letter from the national booking centre and it is more convenient for them to take up that appointment than to call and make an appointment, they should get their vaccination done through the national booking centre. If that is inconvenient, they can absolutely wait and the primary care network will contact them and give them an appointment to make sure that they are vaccinated. Our absolute pledge is to make sure that the four categories that are most vulnerable to coronavirus are offered a vaccine by mid-February.
In Scotland, care home residents have been tackled quicker than those in England, overall coverage in Scotland is similar to that in England, and pro rata Scotland has way more vaccination sites, yet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has caused concern by stating that the Scottish Government are somehow sitting on supplies, and he did that by comparing coverage to actual allocation. As we tackle fake news, does the Minister agree that it is irresponsible to play politics with fudged figures on such an important subject?
Scottish care homes tend to be much larger in profile than the 10,000 homes in England. We are very much focused on making sure that we vaccinate all care home residents by the end of January. We are working with the four CMOs, who are working very closely together, to make sure that that particular cohort is protected. As I mentioned earlier, if we protect 20 residents, we save a life, and that is what we do.
We should rightfully be proud of the huge national effort that is taking place to vaccinate the British people against covid. We have seen the incredible speed and efficiency of Israel’s vaccination drive, which is on track to vaccinate all over-16s by the end of March, so what discussions has my hon. Friend had with his Israeli counterpart about replicating Israel’s success, particularly in the areas of digitisation and accessibility?
I commend the Israeli Government and health service for a stellar job in vaccinating their most vulnerable communities. We have a lot to learn from other countries, including the throughput—the speed at which they manage to vaccinate—which is something from which we can all learn so that we can improve our output. NHS England and the teams on the frontline have been doing a tremendous job and is worth us all thinking about that: we stand on the shoulders of real heroes.
We are way over time, so I am going to take only four more questions and I would be grateful if they could be swift.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the progress made so far, but ask him for some reassurance about those whose appointments have been cancelled due to the vaccine unexpectedly not being available. Will he confirm that they will not be forgotten about, that they will not lose their place in the queue and that they will be reached swiftly?
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. I can give him the reassurance that anyone who has had their appointment cancelled will get that appointment reinstated and will get their vaccine. Our absolute commitment is to make sure that those four most vulnerable cohorts have the offer of a vaccine by the middle of February.
I heard the Minister’s earlier comments about vaccinations for teachers and school support staff, but what about the position of special schools? Should their staff, who work with profoundly disabled young people, including those with serious neuro-disabilities, and who provide personal and intimate care, not be treated in the same way as frontline social care workers?
The Lady is absolutely right to highlight that cohort, some of whom will be picked up in category 4 and some of whom will be picked up in category 6—this will include the people who look after them.
Vaccinating those in care homes will ensure that some of society’s most vulnerable are protected against this awful virus. However, many people receive care at home, so does my hon. Friend agree that they should be treated in the same way as those in care homes, as they have no option but to interact with many different people?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the primary care networks are best suited to focusing on that and delivering that vaccination, which will protect those who are most vulnerable from dying from covid-19.
All credit and our great thanks to the vaccine taskforce and to our scientists, who have been brilliant in developing the vaccine. In our history, it has often been production engineering that has let us down, so may we have some figures? How many doses are produced each day? What is our manufacturing capacity? Are there any hold-ups or capacity problems in testing the batches? How many doses are being filled in the vials each day? Again, what is the maximum capacity?
It is not our capacity, but the manufacturers’; AstraZeneca produces the Oxford vaccine, and Pfizer-BioNTech produce their vaccine, and Moderna’s is now also approved and in process. There are a number of processes throughout the manufacturing process. When we go from the bulk vaccine into fill and finish, there is a period of time and a sterility test the vaccines have to go through. Then there is batch testing by both the manufacturer and the regulator. All of that gets better and better every single day. It is a new manufacturing process. Oxford-AstraZeneca are delivering 100 million vaccines, which is what we have bought from them, and we have bought 40 million from Pfizer. We will have millions of vaccines in the weeks and months to come. We will meet our target of mid February for delivering the opportunity of a vaccine to the four cohorts most vulnerable to covid.
I thank the Minister. I am sorry to the nine colleagues who have not been called to ask their questions. I hope they will encourage their colleagues to ask shorter questions in future, because that is how we will manage to be fairer in getting more people in.