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Covid-19 Update

Volume 703: debated on Monday 15 November 2021

The UK’s covid-19 vaccine programme continues to protect the nation against the virus. As of 13 November, 50.5 million people have now received their first covid-19 vaccine dose and 46 million have had their second dose. Over 12.6 million of the most vulnerable have also received a third dose/booster vaccine to keep them as safe as possible over the winter months.

The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published further advice on the covid-19 vaccination programme. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has accepted this advice and all four parts of the UK intend to follow the JCVI’s advice.

Children and Young People aged 16 to 17:

The JCVI has provided further advice on the vaccination of those aged 16 and 17. 16 to 17-year-olds included in phase 1 of the adult vaccination programme, 16 to 17-year-olds who are household contacts of immuno-suppressed individuals, and those aged 17 and nine months or over are already eligible for a second dose of covid-19 vaccine. The JCVI has now recommended a second dose of vaccine be offered to all remaining individuals between 16 and 17 years of age 12 weeks after their first dose. The preferred vaccine for all those aged under 18 remains Pfizer/BioNTech.

Expansion of the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme to all those aged 40 to 49 years:

The JCVI has recommended expanding the covid-19 booster vaccination programme by offering all adults aged 40 to 49 years a booster vaccination, six months after their second dose.

The booster vaccination should preferably be undertaken with either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or a half dose of Moderna vaccine.

This announcement follows the advice published on 14 September which recommended booster vaccinations be given to individuals who received vaccination in phase 1—cohorts 1-9.

With deployment of the extended booster vaccination offer imminent, I am now updating the House on the liabilities HMG has taken on in relation to further vaccine supply via this statement and the Departmental Minute containing a description of the liability undertaken. The agreement to provide indemnity with deployment of further booster doses to the population increases the statutory contingent liability of the covid-19 vaccination programme.

Given the proximity between receiving JCVI advice and deployment, we regret that it has not been possible to provide 14 sitting days’ notice to consider these issues in advance of the planned extension to the booster programme in the UK.

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.

The covid-19 vaccines have been developed at pace, however at no point has safety been bypassed. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency 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 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.