I thank Liz Kendall for her response to the Minister’s introduction to this important debate. I take as the theme words from the annex to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice, which said that we had to
“maximise benefit and reduce harm”.
Before I make some suggestions that are intended to be helpful to the Government and to the JCVI, I wish to read out a few words that have arrived just now from one of my mature constituents:
“My husband and I were advised on Saturday evening…that the vaccination was available to us on Sunday”— late afternoon—
“We attended the…Health Centre at that time.
We are writing to say how pleased we were to be offered the jab so quickly and by the way we were looked after at the centre…The staff were very efficient and helpful and made the whole event as stress free as possible.
All credit to all concerned especially those at the Barn Surgery.”
That has been typical for many of the 2 million or so who have already been vaccinated or had their first jab, and we hope it will be true for many, many more.
Let me discuss the problems. I was disappointed to hear that dental staff were not originally allowed to get the vaccination, as they were not directly employed by the NHS, even though they were NHS service providers. I hope that situation has been changed. I feel strongly about another small group, those with motor neurone disease, because of friends of mine who have had the condition. In Northern Ireland, people with that condition were immediately regarded as extremely vulnerable, although that was not necessarily so in England. Perhaps the Minister will say, either in this debate or at some other stage, whether or not that is so.
There are those whose absence from work makes a big difference to the service for the rest of us, and I would argue that reasonably healthy people in their 70s, such as me, can delay our vaccination so that younger people who are not critically vulnerable but whose work is critical to those who are vulnerable, such as the police and education staff—teachers and their support staff—can be vaccinated early. That will mean that they do not have to stay off work when there is some sort of threat around. I hope that the JCVI will find some way of bringing vaccinations for them forward as fast as possible.
There are other issues that I can go back over when an inquiry is held, but now is not the time to go into them in detail. However, I commend the wise family doctors and wise hospital doctors who from January a year ago were telling me things that would have made a significant beneficial difference had the Government picked them up earlier—or the NHS had picked them up earlier, because this is not all about the Government.
I want to talk about the excluded—those who do not have regular jobs, those who were properly paid income as directors. They have been excluded for too long—