First, I thank my right hon. and gallant Friend Sir Desmond Swayne, who is not in his place at this moment, for providing the House with what I can only describe as an energising tonic—perhaps an antidote—after what I can only describe as the soporific dirge that immediately preceded him.
The news that the first effective coronavirus vaccine could prevent 90% of people from catching covid-19 is incredibly reassuring. That success may well indicate the first steps towards returning to normal life and an end to the damage caused by lockdowns, a renewed focus on economic recovery and people regaining the freedoms and liberties curtailed during this crisis. Crucially, the efforts of BioNTech and Pfizer demonstrate the power of the private sector and of capitalism to benefit everyone.
In March this year, Pfizer and BioNTech announced details of their collaboration to develop a covid-19 vaccine. In doing so, there has been limited state involvement. Pfizer accepted advance purchases from a number of Governments, but did not accept conditional research and development funds, including funds from Operation Warp Speed in the United States. The millions spent and the resources diverted towards an uncertain innovation by these two firms have been at their own risk, with no guarantee of success.
Without the bureaucracy that state-run projects are burdened with, Pfizer and BioNTech have been able to focus solely on the scientific challenge that confronted them, whether that be research and development, the logistics of manufacturing or the operations of distribution. Dr Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, rightly stated that he
“wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy.”
This extraordinary effort demonstrates that profit incentives and altruism are not diametrically opposed or in any way contradictory. The efforts of Pfizer and BioNTech will save countless lives and help forge a path of recovery, while both firms stand to make a profit. Her Majesty’s Government made the right decision to pre-purchase 10% of Pfizer’s global supply. Once again, it shows the vote of confidence we should all give to the private sector in tackling great challenges. When we emerge from this crisis—and we shall—we should unleash the full power of our private sector and unburden it from excessive regulations and high taxes. Only through doing so can we ensure a sustainable recovery.
Finally, I would like to thank the constituents of Wakefield and the wider Wakefield district, who in the first lockdown adhered to the rules, did exactly what they said, saved lives and protected the NHS. When we came out of that lockdown they, with gusto only known by Yorkshiremen, took the Chancellor’s offer of a bargain, with more than 130,000 people utilising eat out to help out. We had the biggest bounce back of anyone in the region, with a 27% increase in footfall in Wakefield. When we were put on the warning list for covid, people adhered to the rules, our rate came down and we were no longer on it; we had a lower covid rate than almost anyone else. Again, they have been put into these particular strictures, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and I have every confidence that yet again the people of Wakefield will do the right thing, and protect the NHS and each other.