COVID-19: Immunity Passports
I too have read reports about the development of so-called 'Immunity Passports' which could be used to enable people to safely access certain venues. The Government has stated that the priority at the moment is establishing a safe and effective way to roll out the vaccine to those who need it. While I understand that a range of options are being considered to encourage people to receive the vaccine, the Government does not plan to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
Once you are in receipt of a vaccine, you will be issued with a card by the NHS, stating the name of the vaccine, as well as the batch number and the date of each dose, which you must keep with you. However, this should not be considered an immunity passport, and the Government has no plans for the card to be used in this way. The fundamental issue is that while vaccination stops people developing severe cases of Coronavirus, we do not know yet if it stops them passing it on to other people, putting their lives at risk.
I urge my colleagues across the Government to continue to act in response to the latest research. The roll-out of the vaccine is most welcome, but we are not yet at the end of the road, and people must continue to comply with the restrictions in place in their area, including when they have received their vaccination.
COVID-19: Self-Isolation Payments
The introduction of the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment is for people on low incomes who are unable to work from home while self-isolating.
I believe it is right that we both encourage compliance with the duty to self-isolate and support those who have lost vital earnings opportunities from having to self-isolate. It is important that any potentially fraudulent payments or payments made in error are investigated and that when administering the scheme, local authorities work to ensure that misappropriated funds are clawed back.
The introduction of a legal duty to self-isolate from 28th September 2020, a system of fines for those in breach of this duty and the Test and Trace Support Payment will help ensure that self-isolation is properly adhered to and we are better placed to protect communities from Covid-19.
I welcome the additional £20 million which the Government is making available to local authorities to support the operation of the system of Test and Trace Support Payments in addition to a further £10 million for discretionary payments to those who could face hardship as a result of self-isolation.
COVID-19 Vaccine: Gaps Between Dosage
Moving to a 12-week gap between vaccinations is a public health approach centred on doing as much good for as many people in the shortest possible timeframe. The short term efficacy for the Pfizer vaccine is around 90 per cent, and around 70 per cent for the Oxford vaccine.
I am aware the British Medical Association has released a statement questioning the decision to delay the second dose, however they are not supported by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunology, the British Society on Immunology or the Medicines and Health Products and Regulatory Authority in this. Those three bodies are in agreement with the Government’s decision and dispute the scientific claims being made by the BMA about the reduced efficacy of the second dose due to the delay.
Exploratory analysis has shown that a longer dose interval may actually increase immunity from the Oxford vaccine, and while Pfizer has not evaluated an alternative dosing schedule, the Moderna vaccine, which uses the same mRNA technology, has data to support high efficacy up to 108 days after the first dose. This has since been highlighted by both the Chief Medical Officers and by the Chief Executive of AstraZeneca himself, who has emphasised that the prioritisation of the first dose is ‘absolutely the right approach’.
Due to this, many other countries are carefully monitoring the progress of the UK’s vaccination operation and considering adopting the delayed second dose themselves.
COVID-19 Vaccine: Ensuring accessibility for the blind, deaf & disabled
I can assure you that I take the issue of vaccine take-up incredibly seriously and I welcome the Government's commitment to move the UK's vaccine programme forward with pace. I am sure you will agree that when offered a vaccine everyone should take this up and get vaccinated.
I also firmly believe that accessibility is a key priority, and so I welcome that the Department of Health and Social Care has been working to ensure information is provided about the vaccine in audio, Braille, large print, easy read and British Sign Language.
The framework for rolling out the vaccine outlines that providers are responsible for ensuring that their vaccination centres are accessible to all members of their community and take steps to improve access and reduce potential inequalities for people eligible to receive vaccinations. Patients booking vaccination appointments can choose a site that meets their accessibility needs and transport requirements and will be informed of the distance of the site from the postcode they have entered.
I will be happy to work with vaccination hubs in and around South Cambridgeshire to ensure that everybody can access this vaccine as soon as they are invited to do so.
COVID-19 Vaccine: Prioritising those with ADHD & Autism
I know this has been an incredibly difficult and worrying time for people with learning disabilities and autism. As your MP, I am absolutely committed to supporting people with learning disabilities and autism through every stage of the pandemic, as I know my ministerial colleagues in Government are.
I understand that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has carefully considered the prioritisation of those with learning disabilities and autism. Current evidence strongly indicates however that the single greatest risk of mortality from COVID-19 is increasing age and that the risk increases exponentially with age. When compared to persons without underlying health conditions, the absolute increased risk in those with underlying health conditions is considered generally to be lower than the increased risk in persons over the age of 65. The exception to this is the clinically extremely vulnerable. JCVI's advice is therefore to offer vaccination to those aged 65 years and over followed by those in clinical risk groups aged 16 years and over. This includes those with severe and profound learning disabilities.
It is important to note also that while the JCVI has given its recommendations on the first phase of prioritisation (groups 1-9), JCVI is still due to come forward with further recommendations of further prioritisation. I will make representations to ministers to seek assurance that people with learning disabilities are carefully considered again by JCVI.
I know that the JCVI is in the process of considering the next phase of the vaccination programme and they have said that the points raised with them regarding the wider numbers of persons with mild and moderate learning disabilities and autism will be taken into account in the relevant discussions and considerations ahead. I will be following developments closely.
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