I was delighted to lead a debate in Westminster Hall today on behalf of the Petitions Committee to encourage people to get both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and dispel the myths and conspiracies which are being pedalled by anti-vax movements.
Vaccines go through rigorous testing, and all information relating to their testing, licensing, side-effects and so on is available for public scrutiny. Vaccines are also constantly monitored after approval. The extensive list of stages a new vaccine must go through raises the question of how the COVID-19 vaccine was approved so quickly. Vaccines can take several years to be approved, so that is a fair question, which we must answer.
To reassure people, there are several answers. The first obvious reason why this particular vaccine has been rolled out so fast is the huge international effort that has gone into finding a vaccine for COVID-19, and the funding that has gone along with it. Finding a working vaccine has been the primary, if not sole, job of many of the world’s scientists for much of the past year, and has been backed by funding from various foreign governments.
Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, has explained in detail how the UK in particular was able to approve the vaccine so quickly. I advise people to look at her article in The Times titled, “How we backed a COVID vaccine before the rest of the West”, in which she spoke of the work that went into getting preparations in place before the vaccine data arrived, meaning that the MHRA was not starting from scratch. That included setting up an independent expert working panel in June, preparing laboratories for batch testing in September, and reviewing rolling data from Pfizer from October. That meant that by 23 November, when the final data submission arrived at the MHRA, good progress had already been made so that it could review the data, consult with the Commission on Human Medicines and approve the vaccine for use once satisfied, with no corners cut and no stone left unturned.
It is only natural to have questions about something that we put into our bodies, so I hope my above contribution offers some peace of mind. People should ask questions, speak to their GP, pharmacist and so on about this or any vaccine. Go to those with the knowledge—please do not listen to dangerous internet conspiracy theories.
You can watch my full contribution to the debate above.