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Covid-19: Pharmaceutical Interventions

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2022

Vaccines remain our best line of defence against covid-19. NHS staff and volunteers in our world-leading vaccination programme continue to work tirelessly, and I am sure the House thanks all of them. The offer of first, second and booster doses is always open. It is never too late to get jabbed.

We were the first country in the world to begin rolling out oral antivirals in the community, as part of a range of NHS antiviral and therapeutic treatment options to give us another line of defence. We are working hard to identify further safe and effective treatments through Government-funded national trials.

It was announced last month that covid vaccinations will be offered to healthy five to 11-year-olds, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation calculates that 2 million children in this age group will need to be vaccinated to prevent one intensive care unit admission, so any serious side effects occurring at a rate of more than one in 2 million would constitute a net harm. Given that reports of serious side effects, such as myocarditis, from other countries significantly exceed that rate, and given the lack of long-term safety data for the new vaccine, how confident are the Government that the vaccination of healthy five to 11-year-olds will do more good than harm?

We carefully considered and accepted the advice of the JCVI that the health benefits to five to 11-year-olds of a single dose of the covid-19 vaccine are greater than the potential health risks. I reassure the House that this is a non-urgent offer, and our priority is to continue vaccinating the most vulnerable.