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Covid-19 Update

Volume 700: debated on Monday 6 September 2021

Through the covid-19 vaccines programme, we have administered over 90 million vaccine doses in the UK, with recent PHE data suggesting that this has prevented over 24 million infections, 105,900 deaths and 82,100 hospitalisations in England alone. The vaccines are the most effective way of protecting the most vulnerable and minimising hospitalisations and deaths.

The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continues to consider emerging data. When Parliament was in recess the Committee provided advice in favour of:

offering initial vaccination to all remaining 16 and 17-year-olds;

offering a third dose in the primary vaccine schedule to all those aged 12 and over defined as severely immunosuppressed;

and expanding the groups of 12 to 15-year-olds defined as at risk.

Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) reviewed and accepted the advice. All four parts of the UK have accepted the JCVI’s advice and will align their deployment in each nation.

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 expansion of the covid-19 vaccine programme taken during the summer recess.

Initial vaccination to all remaining 16 and 17-year-olds:

JCVI published further advice on the vaccination of children and young people on 4 August.

JCVI advised that all remaining 16 to 17-year-olds should be offered a first dose of Pfizer-BNT162b2 vaccine. This is in addition to the existing offer of two doses of vaccine to 16 to 17-year-olds who are in “at-risk” groups or in roles which present a high risk of transmission to vulnerable people.

Third dose in the primary vaccine schedule to all those aged 12 and over defined as severely immunosuppressed:

JCVI published its advice on vaccination for individuals with severe immunosuppression on 1 September.

JCVI advised that a third primary vaccine dose be offered to individuals aged 12 and above with severe immunosuppression in proximity of their first or second covid-19 vaccine doses in the primary schedule with a preference for mRNA vaccines for those aged 18 and over. Whether patients are eligible will be determine by their specialist clinician. For young people aged 12 to 17 years, the Pfizer-BNT162b2 remains the preferred choice.

A third primary dose is recommended for individuals with severe immunosuppression in order to bring these individuals up to nearer the same level of immunity that healthy individuals achieve through two primary doses, and this group will become eligible for a booster dose as part of a routine booster programme from around six months after their third primary dose, pending further advice.

Expanding the groups of 12 to 15-year-olds defined as at risk:

JCVI published further advice on expanding the vaccine offer to certain children and young people on 3 September.

JCVI advised that the offer of a course of vaccination should be expanded to include children aged 12 to 15 years with the following conditions:

Haematological malignancy

Sickle cell disease

Type 1 diabetes

Congenital heart disease,

Other health conditions as described in Public Health England’s Green Book

This is in addition to the conditions specified in the existing advice on at risk 12 to 15-year-olds published on 19 July. JCVI advised that this group is offered a two-dose course of vaccination with Pfizer-BNT162b2 vaccine as the preferred option.

With deployment of additional doses of vaccines to severely immunosuppressed individuals and new groups of young people over the parliamentary summer recess, I am now updating the House on the liabilities that HMG have taken on in relation to further vaccine supply via this statement and attached departmental minutes containing descriptions of the liability undertaken. The agreement to provide indemnity with deployment of further doses to the population increases the statutory contingent liability of the covid-19 vaccination programme.

Deployment of effective vaccines to eligible groups has been and remains a key part of the Government’s strategy to manage covid-19. Willingness to accept the need for appropriate indemnities to be given to vaccine suppliers has helped to secure access to vaccines with the expected benefits to public health and the economy alike much sooner than may have been the case otherwise.

Given the exceptional circumstances we are in, and the terms on which developers have been 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 MHRA approval for use of the currently deployed vaccines clearly demonstrates that this vaccine has satisfied, in full, all the necessary requirements for safety, effectiveness, and quality. We are providing indemnities in the very 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 or additional doses of vaccines already in use in the UK are deployed.

HM Treasury has approved the proposal.