Covid-19: Response and Excess Deaths

– in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 18 April 2024.

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[Relevant documents: e-petition 639085, Launch a Public Inquiry into excess mortality in England and Wales; e-petition 628188, Investigate UK excess deaths not related to Covid.]

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire 2:33, 18 April 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the covid-19 pandemic response and trends in excess deaths;
and calls on the covid-19 inquiry to move onto its module 4 investigation into vaccines and therapeutics as soon as possible.

We are witnesses to the greatest medical scandal in this country in living memory, and possibly ever: the excess deaths in 2022 and 2023. Its causes are complex, but the novel and untested medical treatment described as a covid vaccine is a large part of the problem. I have been called an anti-vaxxer, as if I have rejected those vaccines based on some ideology. I want to state clearly and unequivocally that I have not: in fact, I am double vaccinated and vaccine-harmed. Intelligent people must be able to tell when people are neither pro-vax nor anti-vax, but are against a product that does not work and causes enormous harm to a percentage of the people who take it.

I am proud to be one of the few Members of Parliament with a science degree. It is a great shame that there are not more Members with a science background in this place; maybe if there were, there would be less reliance on Whips Office briefings and more independent research, and perhaps less group-think. I say to the House in all seriousness that this debate and others like it are going to be pored over by future generations, who will be genuinely agog that the evidence has been ignored for so long, that genuine concerns were disregarded, and that those raising them were gaslit, smeared and vilified.

One does not need any science training at all to be horrified by officials deliberately hiding key data in this scandal, which is exactly what is going on. The Office for National Statistics used to release weekly data on deaths per 100,000 in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations—it no longer does so, and no one will explain why. The public have a right to that data. There have been calls from serious experts, whose requests I have amplified repeatedly in this House, for what is called record-level data to be anonymised and disclosed for analysis. That would allow meaningful analysis of deaths after vaccination, and settle once and for all the issue of whether those experimental treatments are responsible for the increase in excess deaths.

Far more extensive and detailed data has already been released to the pharma companies from publicly funded bodies. Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, said that this anonymised, aggregate death by vaccination status data is “commercially sensitive” and should not be published. The public are being denied that data, which is unacceptable; yet again, data is hidden with impunity, just like in the Post Office scandal. Professor Harries has also endorsed a recent massive change to the calculation of the baseline population level used by the ONS to calculate excess deaths. It is now incredibly complex and opaque, and by sheer coincidence, it appears to show a massive excess of deaths in 2020 and 2021 and minimal excess deaths in 2023. Under the old calculation method, tried and tested for decades, the excess death rate in 2023 was an astonishing 5%—long after the pandemic was over, at a time when we would expect a deficit in deaths because so many people had sadly died in previous years. Some 20,000 premature deaths in 2023 alone are now being airbrushed away through the new normal baseline.

Shocking things happened during the pandemic response. In March 2020, the Government conducted a consultation exercise on whether people over a certain age or with certain disabilities should have “do not resuscitate” orders, known as DNRs, imposed upon them. A document summarising the proposals was circulated to doctors and hospitals; it was mistakenly treated as formal policy by a number of care homes and GPs up and down the country, who enacted it. At the same time, multiple hospitals introduced a policy that they would not admit patients with DNRs, because they thought that they would be overwhelmed. The result was that people died who did not need to die while nurses performed TikTok dances.

The average time to death from experiencing covid symptoms and testing positive was 18 days. It is a little-known fact that the body clears all the viruses within around seven days; what actually kills people is that some, especially the vulnerable, have an excessive immune response. Doctors have been treating that response for decades with steroids, antibiotics for secondary pneumonia infections and other standard protocols, but they did not do so this time. Even though the virus was long gone, doctors abandoned the standard clinical protocols because covid was a “new virus”—which it was not. They sent people home, told them to take paracetamol until their lips turned blue, and then when those people returned to hospital, they sedated them, put them on ventilators and watched them die.

The protocol for covid-19 treatment was a binary choice between two treatment tracks. Once admitted, ill patients were either ventilated in intensive care or—if they were not fit for that level of care—given end of life medication, including midazolam and morphine. The body responsible for that protocol, NG163, which was published on 3 April 2020, is called the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE. Giving midazolam and morphine to people dying of cancer is reasonable, but there is a side effect, which is that those drugs have a respiratory depressant effect. It is hard to imagine a more stupid thing to do than giving a respiratory suppressant to someone who is already struggling to breathe with the symptoms of covid-19, but that is exactly what we did.

Can the Minister explain why midazolam was removed from the same updated guideline NG191—the antecedent of NG163—on 30 November 2023? As it was removed, is it now considered and admitted that it was a mistake to ignore the warnings of so many experts about including that specific drug, midazolam, in NG163 when it was introduced? It has been confirmed in letters from Ministers to families whose loss of loved ones was down to this protocol that Ministers are now saying that doctors and nurses should have treated the individual patient with their own knowledge, rather than strictly following NICE guideline NG163. If legal cases for unlawful killing are brought, can the Minister tell us who is going to be taking the blame? Will it be NICE, will it be NHS England or will the individual doctors and nurses be held to account?

Interestingly, NICE has now removed these alternative protocols, including NG163, from its website, although every other historical protocol is still there for reference. Could the Minister tell us why NICE has removed this protocol from its website? Is it ashamed of the harm it has caused? It certainly should be. What can we learn from this? We learn that very few doctors dare challenge what they are told. Protocols with no authors are distributed, and doctors fall into line.

There is a huge, stark contrast in how deaths and illnesses after vaccination have been recorded compared with those after covid. After a positive covid test, any illness and any death was attributed to the virus. After the experimental emergency vaccine was administered, no subsequent illness and no death was ever attributed to the vaccine. Those are both completely unscientific approaches, and that is why we have to look at other sources of data—excess deaths—to determine whether there is an issue.

First, however, I want to address the phrase “safe and effective”. The fear deliberately stoked up by the Government promoted the idea of being rescued by a saviour vaccine. The chanting of the “safe and effective” narrative began, and the phrase seemed to hypnotise the whole nation. “Safe and effective” was the sale slogan of thalidomide. After that scandal, rules were put in place to prevent such marketing in future by pharma companies, and they are prohibited from using “safe and effective” without significant caveats.

That did not matter this time because, with covid-19 vaccines, the media, the Government and other authorities turned into big pharma’s marketing department, and it is very hard now to hear the word “safe” without the echo of the words “and effective”, but they are not safe and effective. In March 2021, when the majority of UK citizens had already received these novel products, Pfizer signed a contract with Brazil and South Africa saying that

“the long-term effects and efficacy of the Vaccine are not currently known and…adverse effects of the Vaccine...are not currently known.”

That is verbatim from the Pfizer contracts.

These so-called vaccines were the least effective vaccines ever. Is there anyone left under any illusion that they prevented any infections? When he was at the Dispatch Box for Prime Minister’s questions on 31 January, even the Prime Minister, in answer to my question, could not bring himself to add “and effective” to his “safe” mantra. In his own words, he was “unequivocal” that the vaccines are “safe”. The word “safe” means without risk of death or injury. Why is the Prime Minister gaslighting the 163 successful claims made to the vaccine damage payment scheme, totalling £19.5 million in compensation for harm caused by the covid vaccines? Have these people not suffered enough already? Those 163 victims are the tip of the iceberg, by the way. It also should be noted that the maximum payment is only £120,000, so each of those 163 victims got the maximum possible award, which should tell us something. The same compensation scheme paid out a total of only £3.5 million between 1997 and 2005, with an average of only eight claims per year, and that is for all claims for the entire country for all vaccines administered. So much for “safe”.

How about effective? On 25 October 2021, the then Prime Minister—the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson—even admitted that the vaccine

“doesn’t protect you against catching the disease and it doesn’t protect you against passing it on.”

Looking at the levels of the virus found in sewage shows that the post-vaccine wave was of the same order of magnitude and duration as the previous waves. This proves that the vaccines changed nothing. They were not safe, and they were not effective.

Those who imposed these vaccines knew full well that they could never prevent infection from a disease of this kind. An injection in the arm cannot do that. Only immunity on the surface of the airways and the lungs can prevent viral infection; antibodies in the blood cannot. In Dr Anthony Fauci’s words,

“it is not surprising that none of the predominantly mucosal respiratory viruses have ever been effectively controlled by vaccines.”

He continued:

“This observation raises a question of fundamental importance: if natural mucosal respiratory virus infections do not elicit complete and long-term protective immunity against reinfection, how can we expect vaccines, especially systemically administered non-replicating vaccines, to do so?”

They knew that the so-called vaccines would never protect from infection, which explains why they never tested for protection from infection.

Only a few days ago, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry rapped Pfizer on the knuckles for the sixth time, and said that its marketing practices had brought the industry into disrepute. It was asked to pay a paltry £30,000 in administrative expenses, with no fine on top. The person heading the ABPI at the moment is also the head of Pfizer UK. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has a statutory duty to carry out this work, and it has handed its responsibility to the industry. This is an outrageous conflict of interest.

Let us turn back to excess deaths. The Australian Government have launched an inquiry into Australia’s excess deaths problem. Australia is almost unique as a case study for excess deaths; as it had the vaccine before it had covid, its excess deaths are not so easily blamed on the long-term side effects of a virus. Like us, it saw a rise in deaths, which began in May 2021 and has not let up since. The impact was evident on the ambulance service first. South Australia saw a 67% increase in cardiac presentations of 15 to 44-year-olds. That increase peaked in November 2021, before covid hit. We saw a similar, deeply worrying effect here. In the UK, calls for life-threatening emergencies rose from 2,000 per day to 2,500 per day in May 2021, and that number has never returned to normal.

By October 2021, despite it being springtime in Australia, headlines reported that ambulances were unable to drop off patients in hospitals, which were already at full capacity. Mark McGowan, Premier of Western Australia, said that he could not explain the overwhelmed hospitals:

“Our hospitals are under enormous pressure. This has been something no one has ever seen before. Why it is, is hard to know.”

In April 2022, Yvette D’Ath, Queensland’s Health Minister, said about the most urgent ambulance calls, called “code ones”:

“I don’t think anyone can explain why we saw a 40% jump in code ones... We just had a lot of heart attacks and chest pains and trouble breathing, respiratory issues. Sometimes you can’t explain why those things happen but unfortunately, they do.”

I think we could explain this if we were to look at the link to the vaccine roll-out. Omicron did cause some excess deaths in Australia from 2022 onwards. However, there was a huge chunk of excess deaths prior to that, which doctors have not been able to blame on the virus. Could those deaths be caused by the vaccine? Very few people dare even ask that question.

It is important to remember how the vaccines were made. Traditionally, the key to making a vaccine is to ensure that the pathological, harmful parts of the virus or bacteria are inactivated, so that the recipient can develop an immune response without danger of developing the disease. In stark contrast, the so-called covid vaccines used the most pathological or harmful part of the virus—the spike protein—in its entirety. The harm is systemic because, contrary to what everyone was told, the lipid nanoparticles, encapsulating the genetic material, spread through the whole body after injection, potentially affecting all organs. At the time, everyone was being reassured that the injection was broken down in the arm at the injection site. Regulators ought to have known that those were problems.

Furthermore, it is now plentifully evident that the drug results in continued spike protein production for many months—even years, in some people. The deaths thus far have been predominantly cardiac, but there may unfortunately be many more deaths to come from these novel treatments, which may induce extra cancer deaths. Dr Robert Tindle is the retired director of the Clinical Medical Virology Centre in Brisbane, and emeritus professor of immunology. This month he published a paper highlighting the multiple potential harms from the vaccines, including harm to the immune system. As anyone who knows anything about biology will know, anything that disrupts the immune system can potentially increase the risk of cancer.

There are other reasons to be concerned about cancer being induced by these vaccines. Cancer is a genetic disease disorder that arises from errors in DNA, allowing cells to grow uncontrollably. Moderna has multiple patents describing methods for reducing the risk of cancer induction from its mRNA products. That risk comes from the material interrupting the patient’s DNA. It turns out that an mRNA injection has very high quantities of DNA in it, and that massively increases the risk of disturbing a patient’s own DNA. Worse still, the DNA that was injected contained sequences that were hidden from the regulator. That is the SV40, or simian virus 40 promoter region, which has been linked to cancer and has been found in the Pfizer vaccines. That was no accident. Yet again, crucial information was hidden from the regulator and the public with absolute impunity. An independent study in Japan, published last week, has found links between increased cancer rates in Japan and those who took the first and subsequent booster vaccines. Perhaps that explains why Pfizer acquired a cancer treatment company for a reported $43 billion earlier this year.

In conclusion, the evidence is clear: these vaccines have caused deaths. Despite that, they have been described as safe and effective. However, for a proportion of people who took them, the vaccines have caused serious harm and death, and they will have raised the risk of cancer for many more. Nor are they effective. The vaccine does not prevent infection or transmission, and when the data is looked at objectively, it shows that the vaccine does not prevent serious illness or death. Those are hard truths to face, but we must face them if we want to learn the lessons of the last few years. At some point we will have to face up to all the evidence that is building. It was fairly convincing 18 months ago when I first spoke out, but it is unequivocal now.

It is time to take the politics out of our science, and to put actual science back into our politics. I ask the House to support the motion today, and for Baroness Hallett’s inquiry to open module 4 on the safety and efficacy of the experimental covid-19 vaccines. Given the evidence, I call on the Government once again to immediately suspend the use of all mRNA treatments in both humans and animals, pending the outcome of that inquiry. [Applause.]

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

No, no, we will have to clear the Gallery if clapping continues; I will order it, if necessary.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 2:53, 18 April 2024

As we have just witnessed, feelings are very strong on this issue, and large numbers of people have suffered directly or indirectly as a result of having covid-19 vaccines. For most people—the vast majority—the covid-19 vaccines were very good news, and they made an enormous contribution to the public health of the country, but that does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to those for whom the vaccines were bad news. In the earlier debate today, I reiterated my request that the Government take effective action, through the vaccine damage payment scheme, to ensure that those people for whom the vaccines were bad news receive proper compensation.

As Andrew Bridgen reminded us, the maximum payment under that scheme is £120,000. That figure has not been updated in line with inflation since 2007; had it been updated, it would now be about £200,000. Why do the Government not update it? Relatively small numbers of people are involved, but it seems as though there is reluctance on the Government’s part to face up to the reality that, for a small proportion of people, the vaccines were bad news.

When we had this debate initially, soon after the roll- out of the vaccines, the Government were unequivocal in saying that the vaccines were safe and effective, and with no qualification at all. Subsequently, AstraZeneca issued essentially a warning notice to practitioners, which said that they should be cautious about the roll-out of some of the vaccines to some patients. People who wish to make claims against the vaccine manufacturers and/or the Government—civil claims to supplement the £120,000 that they have already been awarded—are finding it difficult to get access to lawyers to pursue their claims, particularly if those claims arise from vaccines administered after AstraZeneca issued its first warning against the safety of its vaccines in certain circumstances.

A large number of people across the country look to the Government to intervene, first, to ensure that the vaccine damage payment scheme is updated, and secondly, to ensure that the people who applied under that scheme have their claims dealt with in a reasonable timeframe. Many of those claims are not. There are more than 9,000 claims, and 4,000-plus have not even been resolved yet. The delays extend to 18 months or more. The consequence for many claimants is that they are unable to begin their civil action, but a civil action has to be brought within three years of the cause of action arising if it is not to be affected by the limitation period.

I have asked the Prime Minister—I had a meeting with him, and have raised this at Prime Minister’s questions —whether the Government will intervene to ensure that the three-year limitation period does not apply to people still waiting for a determination of their claim under the vaccine damage payment scheme, if they wish to go on and sue the Government or the manufacturers. It is a matter of simple equity and justice. I have yet to have a substantive answer from the Government. I am due to meet the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care next week, and I hope that by then she will be able to assure me—she is a lawyer, as well as a Secretary of State—that nobody will be denied justice as a result of the Government’s delays in administering the vaccine damage payment scheme.

I very much share the disappointment of the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, who introduced this debate, that module 4 of the public inquiry has been postponed. Last August, there was a preliminary hearing, and there was some potent advocacy by the lawyers representing the victim groups who wanted to give evidence in module 4. That evidence will be extremely compelling when it is heard by the inquiry. It was a big disappointment to those groups, to me and to others that module 4 was postponed. We have been told that it has been postponed until January next year. The reasons for that seem rather weak and feeble, but the inquiry is independent. Evidence that was to have been given in July will now not be heard until January next year. The implications are serious for those seeking compensation for their suffering, but it is also significant for that other group of people.

That is because module 4 deals not just with vaccines but with therapeutics. There is a big issue about therapeutics, because Evusheld, the therapeutic that was meant to be available in particular for those who were immuno- suppressed and not able to take the vaccines, was never approved by NICE. A second version of Evusheld was being brought forward, but that has also still not been approved.

My constituent Bernard Mathysse has written to me in recent months to draw my attention to a letter sent on 26 March to the Prime Minister by a group of charities concerned with the issue. It calls for the Government to intervene and ensure that an early decision is made on what can be done to help immunocompromised people who cannot access the vaccines in any event. My constituent says that

“France has given emergency authorisation to Evusheld 2, and has got it into patients within a month of authorisation”.

He believes that other European countries will do the same. The United States has given Pemgarda—another drug—emergency authorisation, and so on.

Why can we not get a commitment from the Government to ensure that Evusheld is available to clinically vulnerable people? My constituent also wrote to me in July 2023 expressing the need to fast-track an essential pre-exposure prophylaxis drug. The consequence for him is that he and his wife have been in effect shielding for about four years: they meet friends only outside, they do not travel on public transport or go by aeroplane, they ask the family to test before a visit, they mask indoors, and they have to assess every situation to gauge the risks involved. That obviously means that they have a much restricted and isolated life, to their detriment, but that could be resolved if the Evusheld issue was taken seriously by the Government. If module 4 had been heard this summer, perhaps Baroness Hallett, as an interim recommendation, could have said, “The Government must get on with that.”

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

I am hugely enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech. I, too, have a constituent who is immunosuppressed and, unbelievably, still shielding, which is putting huge pressure on the family. Does not the slowness of the decision over this therapeutic stand in sorry contrast with the rapid decision taken on vaccines in the first place?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Exactly. One of the inhibitions there may have been on the Government’s part was that, to justify the use of emergency vaccines, it was necessary for them to believe that there was no alternative. Of course, if those alternative measures had been recognised as a suitable way of providing some protection to individuals against covid-19, that would have undermined the vaccine manufacturers’ case that they needed emergency authorisation for their vaccines without going through the normal testing procedures.

The continuing slowness of the Government in responding to requests for licensing of Evusheld reinforce the feeling out there among many people that something funny is going on here and that, if we had come forward with those therapeutic measures at the beginning, many lives would have been saved, such an extensive vaccination programme would not have been needed, and the Government would have saved a lot of money. There is an issue there, but that is why the part of the motion that regrets the postponement of that element of the covid-19 inquiry is important.

We can debate academically or in political circles the issue of the excess deaths, but it is interesting that the Government concede that there have been excess deaths. The House of Commons Library’s briefing produced on 15 April for this debate says:

“The government has acknowledged an increase in the number of excess deaths in England and Wales and has attributed these to a combination of factors, such as the prevalence of heart disease, flu and heart disease.”

The emphasis is on heart disease, but many people feel that the increase in heart conditions and disease has been exacerbated by the very vaccines that people were persuaded to take to protect them against covid-19. According to an article last year, Dr Thomas Levy said that, on his estimate,

“vaccines are causing heart injury in at least 2.8% of people who receive the covid injections.”

He estimated that

“a minimum of 7 million Americans now have hearts damaged by covid ‘vaccines.’ And although there’s no way of being certain at this time, he said, it’s within the realm of possibility that over 100 million people in America have some degree of heart damage from the injections—not myocarditis but heart damage that will be detectable with a troponin test.”

There may be a link between the propensity of vaccines to damage people’s hearts and what the House of Commons Library, interpreting the Government figures, concedes is an issue of excess deaths attributable to heart disease.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point that there is not a single medical intervention that does not also have risks—the medical profession will always acknowledge that—but is it not about a balance of the benefits against the risks? Ultimately, the judgment was made by those who supported the covid vaccine that the benefits far outweighed the risks imposed by the vaccine.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I agree that the benefits outweigh the risks, but I do not think we have ever had a system in this country where we license drugs on the basis that they will do more harm than good to those who take them. If the drugs are potentially significantly harmful to a large number of patients, those drugs do not get their licence—and why should they?

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

With respect, that is exactly what we do. Antibiotics cause anaphylactic reactions that kill people. We give antibiotics to people knowing that a very small portion of them will be killed by them but, overall, they save many more lives than they take. That is why they get a licence.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The key question is: do the people who are being prescribed the antibiotics know that there is a risk that they will die as a result of them being prescribed? If so, they are told that, but nobody who was affected by the covid-19 vaccines was told that they were anything other than absolutely safe and effective. That is the basis upon which a lot of the litigation will be founded.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes

I agree with my hon. Friend. Hon. Members are suggesting that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. They suggest in these debates that there is always a balance to be made, and I agree. But do they acknowledge that there is a risk attached to the vaccine, and that the excess deaths that we are describing can be attributed to the vaccine? They might suggest that the risk is outweighed by the enormous benefit of the vaccine by saving lives, but if they are suggesting that there is a risk that could help explain the excess deaths, that is not the Government’s position. Their position is that there is no link between the vaccines and the excess deaths. If they are suggesting that there is a link but it is outweighed by the benefits, that is a different argument.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Madam Deputy Speaker, the enthusiasm is unbounded. I will happily give way to Wera Hobhouse if she wishes to make the point to me in an intervention that she would have liked to have made to my hon. Friend Danny Kruger.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. This is the point, is it not? There has to be absolute certain evidence that there is that link to the covid vaccine. That still has to be proven, in my belief.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. It is important that the hon. Gentleman answers the first intervention before taking a second.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is very wise advice.

I take the hon. Lady’s point, but the Government were reluctant to concede, at the beginning, that there might be risks associated with all this. Now, we have seen that some people have been adversely affected and, in certain circumstances, have even lost loved ones. We would expect the Government to look after people who have been adversely affected, which was the whole ethos of the vaccine damage payment scheme when it was set up. The Government are falling down on their responsibilities on that and, as a result, that is adding to vaccine hesitancy. The proportion of people who are accepting invitations from the health service to have yet another booster is plummeting, because increasingly people realise that in their particular circumstances the risks may outweigh any possible benefit.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The Chamber asks for a link. We know that the excess deaths are predominantly in cardiac arrests, heart problems and strokes. We know that the vaccine works supposedly by inducing human cells to produce spike protein, to be attacked by our own immune system and create the immune response. We know that the vaccine does not stay in the arm. It travels all over the body through the blood supply. Blood vessels are lined by endothelial cells. The mRNA goes into them and makes them creates a spike. They are attacked by the immune system. That explodes into the blood supply and that is a blood clot. If it goes to the heart, you have a heart attack; if it goes to the brain or the lungs, you have a stroke or a pulmonary embolism. That is the link. [Interruption.]

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. This is the final warning. It is simply not acceptable for there to be clapping in the Gallery when particular Members speak. If there is any repeat of it, I will ask for the Gallery to be cleared. I just want to be absolutely clear that that is the position I will take, because it is not what happens in the Chamber or the Gallery.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The hon. Gentleman has put on record what he wanted to say in that intervention. All I am saying is that, as the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on covid-19 vaccine damage, I receive a large number of letters, not just from my constituents but from across the country, from people who have been adversely affected. I do not think anybody is challenging the authenticity of their circumstances or the complaints they make.

I am going to close—I know a lot of other people want to participate in the debate—with one such letter that came not from one of my constituents, but somebody else. She gives her name, but I will not repeat it. She says:

“After receiving my covid-19 vaccination, I experienced severe adverse reactions that resulted in hospitalisation. These reactions encompassed stroke-like symptoms, including seizures, tremors, inability to work or talk, irregular heart palpitations, low oxygen levels, vertigo, brain fog, memory loss, balance issues, tingling, high blood pressure and more. Despite undergoing extensive examinations, a recent diagnosis of Functional Neurological Disorder has highlighted my ongoing struggles with headaches, declining eyesight, and daily seizures.

Before vaccination, I was a healthy 34-year-old;
however, now I am severely disabled, unable to work, and filled with uncertainty about my future, especially with the imminent arrival of my baby. Unfortunately my situation is not unique;
thousands of individuals are suffering similar consequences. Despite assurances of safety, many have been left with life-altering disabilities or worse. I am writing to urgently request an investigation into cases like mine to address the impact of vaccine-related injuries.”

She goes on to give the batch number, and to quote the rather lame response from the MHRA.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

The hon. Gentleman has just illustrated very clearly the fundamental difference between some of the points that have been made about prophylaxis and anaphylaxis. When people are given a drug that could precipitate or trigger an anaphylactic reaction, they are given prophylactic cover to prevent that. The hon. Gentleman is talking about the consequences—as described by Andrew Bridgen—of spike protein embedding itself throughout the body, prompting a systemic inflammatory response that is not acute, as with anaphylaxis, but chronic. That reaction to the vaccine is very different from a normal allergic reaction that is anaphylactic and will be treated appropriately.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing his scientific expertise to the debate, because I am no scientist; I am a mere lawyer.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

May I try to add some further clarity? There are actually a range of side effects, many of which occur over time. Ibuprofen, for instance, is another medicine that we might consider safe and call safe, and a large number of people take it, but eventually, after many years, some will suffer a stomach bleed that causes them to pass away as a result of taking too much ibuprofen over time, although that was medically allowed and considered to be safe. I am afraid that the attempt to give a scientific explanation is based on a flawed understanding of medicines and side effects, which has been demonstrated by numerous people on the other side of the debate.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I will not be able to adjudicate on whether my hon. Friend or Neale Hanvey is right, but I look forward to my hon. Friend’s being able to make his own speech and to its being subjected to scrutiny by the hon. Gentleman. That is a spectacle to which I think we are all looking forward.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

I am listening carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying, and I am sure we all feel very sorry for the young woman in the case that he has described, but is there not the potential that when a vaccine is given in such great quantities to such a large cohort of the population, there is more likely to be correlation than causation between the effects? There is no doubt that people were ill before covid and before the vaccination was delivered, but my problem is that I do not know the answer to that question. [Interruption.] Neale Hanvey says he does, but I am not sure how he can. What I will say is this: should not all of us be calling for further research on this issue to find out what the fundamental truth of it is, rather than listening to those who make assertions that have not been approved by scientists?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Part of the answer to my hon. Friend’s question is to be found in the adjudications of the independent medical advisers who have been looking at claims made under the vaccine damage payment scheme. They have concluded that in several hundred cases there is no doubt that the adverse consequences that are the subject of complaint were caused by the vaccines, and that has given rise to the compensation. In a large number of other cases, the medics have concluded that the conditions suffered and complained about were caused by the vaccines, but have not caused sufficient disability—beyond the 60% threshold—to trigger payments.

Given the evidence provided by the doctors who are acting independently on behalf of the vaccine damage compensation scheme, there is now no doubt that, for some people, the vaccines are fatal or cause severe damage or injury. That is not in dispute, and the more people understand that, the more they will realise that it was over the top for the Government and Ministers to pretend at the beginning of the vaccination programme that these vaccines were going to be different from almost all other known medical interventions and vaccines—in other words, they were not absolutely safe and effective. The failure to say that has severely undermined trust in the system, which is why we need a lot more debates like this.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Before I call the next speaker, I want to be absolutely clear, for the benefit of everybody who is watching our proceedings or participating in them, that if there are any more interruptions from the Gallery and it has to be cleared, I will have to temporarily suspend the House, which may mean that those who want to participate will be denied the opportunity. To be clear, I am trying to create a situation whereby everybody can have their say.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 3:21, 18 April 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Sir Christopher Chope, who has done remarkably good work on vaccine-damaged people. I co-chair his all-party parliamentary group’s sister group, the APPG on pandemic response and recovery, which has allowed me to see that we have a whole body of expert opinion before us. Medics, lawyers, experts in childcare and a whole range of politicians have come to very different views on what the right response to covid was and, in some cases, on both the law and the science itself.

Before I go any further, let me say that my experience of the APPG, and of climate change or global warming debates, is that science and politics make very uneasy bedfellows. There is often an attempt in a political debate to resolve matters that are only resolvable by looking at the evidence, doing more experiments and finding out the truth of the matter, which is not always possible in a debate where people feel very strongly about things.

I want to talk about something we have not really talked about so far: the disease itself. People have different views about the damage done by covid. Some people think it is harmless and just another flu, whereas some treat it as though it were the plague. It is neither. It was a nasty disease for some people who got it, but its major characteristic was the profile of people who were killed or made ill by it. It affected older people much more severely. I think the median age of those who died was 82 for men and 84 for women, so it was a disease of the elderly. Those below 50 were relatively safe—some died, but not many. That was known at the beginning of the epidemic.

This comes back to the point about politics, and the protection of Government politicians, being more important than looking at the science. A rational response to a disease with the profile of covid-19 would have been to put a cordon sanitaire around those people who were vulnerable because of their age or because they had other diseases, such as lung diseases, and to let the rest of us go about our business and take the risk, as we do every year with seasonal flu, but the Government did the opposite. They locked everybody up and sent untested people back from hospital into care homes, where they infected other people, which led to a spike in deaths.

At the same time, the Government were telling us that they were following the science. I have a scientific background—it is not in biology, but I have a degree in chemistry—and I believe in following the science and finding out exactly what is going on. The science was not followed, and not only because the response did not follow the natural profile of the disease. In their early statements, people from the NHS, and both Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, said that masks were a complete waste of time and that lockdowns were ineffective because there would be a peak six months later that would probably be worse than if we had not locked down. That advice changed very quickly, I believe under political pressure. Again, I think that was a mistake.

One country that did follow the science, Sweden, made mistakes—it made the same mistake that we made by sending infected people back into care homes—but it did not lock down and it did not restrict people’s freedom, or it did so in only a moderate way. It came out as about the best of comparable countries in Europe in terms of deaths.

Another consequence, which we see in every debate in this House, is that there is no money left. We spent £400 billion on covid, a lot of it wasted. We can read National Audit Office reports on the test and trace system, which was money almost totally wasted. There is also the money given to people who could quite easily have gone about their jobs. The businesses needed the money, given the decisions that the Government had taken, but the Government should not have taken those decisions.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that some of his comments are more relevant in hindsight than they might have been at the time? In March 2020, it was difficult to predict the path of the disease. We had seen pictures from around the world of hospital A&E departments overwhelmed by those turning up with respiratory problems, and Governments, not only here but around the world, had to respond to that. In hindsight, of course, what the hon. Gentleman is saying is accurate, but at the time we had to react in the way that we felt would protect the highest number of people and protect A&E departments from being overwhelmed. That required us to act quickly. Perhaps mistakes were made, but they are mistakes in hindsight.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I agree with the hon. Gentleman to a point. In March, when the first decisions were made, nobody knew what was going to happen. There was a panic to go into lockdown, which was understandable while people were seeing what was going on, but very soon after that people did know. What I think was, and is, indefensible was to carry on with policies that we knew were damaging the economy and were not protecting people. I therefore voted against my own party, which supported the Government and more on this issue. I went through the Lobby with a small number of colleagues from my party and the hon. Gentleman’s party to say that what was happening was wrong, and that the damage being done by the policies was probably worse than covid. It might be hindsight for March and April 2020, but not for the rest of the time and the second lockdown.

Once we knew the profile of the disease, we knew that we were damaging children. I go into schools and meet eight and nine-year-olds who were locked down when it was known that children were not at risk. A very small number of children died and, as far as I know, they all had comorbidities—I stand to be corrected—so covid was essentially safe for children. We have damaged both their mental health and their ability to learn. I go into schools from time to time, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman does, and teachers tell me that it is very difficult to catch up. I am still annoyed about the response, and I do not think it is hindsight.

I went through the Lobby with a minority of colleagues. One of the two failures of our democracy’s normal checks and balances was that this place was not functioning, as the Easter holiday was extended. Surely the most important thing in a crisis is for our democratic institutions to function properly. We could not ask proper questions and there were no follow-ups. We kept our Select Committee going but, with the best will in the world, it was a pale imitation of what had gone before. There was a complete failure to insist on more accountability from the Government while the economy was shut down. Some of us, although we were not very many, came here to try to keep it going.

Our democracy’s second important check and balance is the fourth estate. These publications are not normally my politics but, with the exception of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, and the Daily Mail to a certain extent, the rest of the media, led by the BBC, were quite uncritical of what was happening. People say that BBC reporters were told not to criticise and not to ask difficult questions, and political journalists—not specialist health journalists who might have asked more pertinent questions—were sent to the press conferences. It was a political question, but it was also a science and health question. We were really let down by the BBC primarily, and by other parts of the media.

The hon. Member for Christchurch and other hon. Members have talked about the Hallett inquiry. I supported the inquiry but, having seen the way it has gone, I have given myself a good talking to. I do not think I will ever again support an inquiry. Do we really want to spend half a billion pounds on this inquiry? I attended the previous debate on recompense, and we heard how lawyers are getting fat on all these inquiries. I do not know when the Hallett inquiry will report, but it may well last for years and cost half a billion pounds. It certainly will not provide us with any advice on what to do if there is a pandemic next year—I suspect that advice is what we all want. By the time it reports, there may have been another Government or two and it will be a historical document. Sweden is not a perfect society, but its inquiry has reported. The motion before us calls for the fourth part of the inquiry, which will be on vaccines, but is the inquiry really the technical body to do that? I do not think so.

In the first stage, the inquiry has shown an extraordinary bias towards believing in lockdowns. I would want to know a number of things from an inquiry: did the lockdowns work? Did they save lives? Have they cost lives? Where did the virus come from? The inquiry is not even looking at that and it is not dealing with any of those things, but it is taking a long time. It has made it abundantly clear that it is going to look at the impact of the virus on social divisions and poverty. I am a member of the Labour party and I can tell the inquiry, because I know, that poor people come off worse from diseases. It can go back to look at the Black report from 1981, I believe it was, if it wants to see that, as it talks about both regional and class disparities. We do not need to look at this issue, as we know that poor people do badly when there are epidemics—that has been true for all time.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

The hon. Gentleman is making an eloquent point. Given our experience of inquiries, be it the current covid inquiry or the ongoing Post Office Horizon inquiry, is it any surprise that even the sub-postmasters have come to the conclusion that there is no justice in these inquiries and they are now considering bringing private criminal prosecutions to get their own justice?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

No, I am not surprised about that. Inquiries take a long time and their reports and recommendations often gather dust. I have never made this point before, and I hope I am not going off-piste too much, Madam Deputy Speaker, but every time there is an horrific murder of a child we get a report with 90-odd recommendations, and the question is: does that protect the next child? No, it does not. I do not believe that these inquiries do. We need serious cultural change in many of these organisations, rather than another report on something. That is an easy thing to say and a very difficult thing to achieve.

Let me come on to the other part of the debate, which is about excess deaths and the number of deaths. It appears that just over 200,000 people were killed in this country by, or died of, covid. I had my doubts about these figures from the beginning. On a number of occasions, right from the start of covid, the Science and Technology Committee heard from statisticians. We had Sir Ian Diamond and Professor Spiegelhalter in to talk to us about the statistics. We heard from people from what is now the UK Health Security Agency but was then a named part of the NHS. We asked them whether they had the statistics on the difference between people who died from covid and those who died with it. If someone was dying of cancer and went into hospital, there was a fair chance that they would have got covid, because there was not perfect protection within hospitals. Such a person would then be registered as having been a covid death, but clearly they were going to die of cancer. From the very beginning, that obscured the statistics.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

A number of statistics were used to profile the causes of death during the pandemic, but ultimately the most reliable statistics come from the death certificates, where a clinician has to make a judgment about whether something was a cause or an association. Those figures are reliable, and they match and mirror the other figures. So we have to be careful about disparaging the statistics that were used to monitor the profile of the pandemic over time in the rapid way we needed and the more authoritative and credible figures that do demonstrate quite a close match and help in genuinely understanding who did and did not die from covid.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but I happen to know that in some local authorities, instructions went out to the people who were registering deaths essentially to say, “If there is a cough involved in this, we want it down as covid.” There was a different process because the health service was not working under normal—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants to correct me, I am happy to allow him to do so.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

To come to that conclusion, one has to say that individual clinicians joined in a conspiracy to lie about what was on a death certificate. We can cast these aspersions, but someone has to fill that certificate in and I do not accept that individual doctors deliberately misled with what was on someone’s death certificate—that is what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I am not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting that at that time, when it was difficult to examine people because there was a distance between clinicians and the people who had suffered death, there was a temptation and a view that covid should go on the death certificates. I suggest no conspiracy, though. I do not believe in conspiracies.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the AstraZeneca vaccine was withdrawn eventually in the UK and around the world. It was withdrawn because of the rarest of blood clots on the brain. It was not put down on any death certificates in the UK by doctors until after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency admitted, due to international pressure, that there was that risk. After that, the death certificates started to appear with vaccine-related harms. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that that was because doctors were intimidated by the idea that their reputations would be smeared for putting anything down as a vaccine harm or by having the GMC on their back.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I do not believe in conspiracies. I do believe that, from time to time, one gets a view, both in professions and outside professions, that pushes judgments in one particular direction. I believe there is one point on which we can reach a consensus in the debate: Government Ministers said that the vaccines were 100% safe—it was particularly egregious when that was said about children— but no vaccine or treatment, as right hon. and hon. Members have said, is 100% safe. I think it was a mistake to say those things.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman has made a sensible, serious point. Ministers here and in other countries knew that when they set up the global vaccines study. For those who want to know about this afterwards—not during the debate—BMJ article reference 2024;384:q488 looks at some rare side effects and acknowledges some of the other side effects. But those who start saying we should not have had the vaccines are wrong, and those who think that anyone believes any treatment is completely safe are wrong as well.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

I am not familiar with that particular paper, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that nothing is ever 100% safe and vaccines have an overall benefit. I am vaccinated against covid, as I have been vaccinated against many things over my lifetime. Vaccines have made the health of this country, and countries around the world that can afford vaccines, much better over many years.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

Further to that, may I suggest that this should not be binary? We do not acknowledge that some people have clearly had severely negative side effects from the covid vaccine. That should be acknowledged and there should be compensation and support, without completely throwing out the whole vaccine programme.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

Of course.

I want to move on to excess deaths over the last couple of years, since covid, and the figures during covid. One of the ways of measuring the impact of covid was looking at excess deaths during covid. They were measured against a five-year average—that was the gold standard; it is the way it has been done—and that gave quite large figures. That is interesting given what has happened when the excess 100,000 deaths per year over the past two years have been looked at. The Office for National Statistics has moved away from that basis and on to a different one, and the figures are coming down.

We need an anonymised account of those excess deaths—this was part of a recent Westminster Hall debate—because that will help us to understand what is going on. The pharmaceutical companies have been given that information, but Ministers just give reassuring statements that there is no evidence that excess deaths are caused by the covid vaccinations—by the mRNA vaccinations. How do they know? They do not tell us that. We need to know, first, how they have come to that conclusion and, secondly, if that is a fair, reasoned and balanced conclusion. We also need a detailed look at the anonymised statistics, so that we can ask further questions about the problems that are worrying us—that certainly worry me—and so that we can make better decisions in future.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes 3:46, 18 April 2024

May I start by paying tribute to all the Members who have spoken in the debate? I have great respect for them all. It is a particular privilege to follow Graham Stringer. He was a hero during the covid period. While so many of us were blindly following what the Government told us to do, he stood almost alone in making up his own mind.

I also acknowledge the leadership of my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope, and the work that he is doing to support the many, many families and people who have suffered adverse reactions, and I am proud to support him in that work. I have great affection and respect for my hon. Friend Dr Mullan, who is doing a valiant job sticking up for his perspective in this debate. He is sitting directly behind the Minister, so I am not sure whether he is able to speak. None the less, I respect the position that he has taken.

I also wish to acknowledge the work done and the speech made by Andrew Bridgen—please do not start cheering, because Mr Deputy Speaker will close down the debate. He is not popular with Members on the Conservative Benches, but I think that we have an obligation to take what he says seriously, and to examine the evidence that he has brought to the House. He has an absolute right to make the case that he does in this place.

Finally, before I get on to the points in my speech, let me mention my hon. Friend Stephen Metcalfe. He made the essential point that we need more evidence. Fundamentally, we need the Government to be more open, and to instruct the agencies of the Government—the regulator and the health service—to provide the data that we need to get to the bottom of this issue. I implore the Minister to respond to that point in her wind-up.

I disagree with the suggestion from the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire that some fishy business was going on in how the ONS has been calculating excess deaths in recent years. Who knows? Perhaps there is some fishy business going on, but the ONS took the right decision to change the methodology. As Carl Heneghan and others have pointed out, the previous method of accounting for excess deaths—of taking an average over five years—actually led to an exaggeration of excess death numbers during the pandemic and, in a sense, contributed to the great anxiety that many people felt, which encouraged the lockdown, so it is right to rethink how excess deaths are calculated.

We know, by all the different measures, that many more people are dying now than were before the pandemic. That might be accounted for simply by an ageing population, by long covid, or by the effects of an NHS under pressure, but as we have heard today, there is significant evidence that other factors are at play. In particular, the impact on people’s hearts, and increasingly younger people’s hearts, deserves attention. The British Heart Foundation reported last June that since the start of the pandemic, 100,000 more people have died than would have been expected. That is surely significant cause for us to take this question seriously.

The question raised by the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire is whether the vaccines have contributed to this increase in excess deaths. I hesitate to wade into this debate because I am not a scientist. I recognise the point made by others, particularly the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton, that science and politics are uncomfortable bedfellows. We know that there are adverse effects from the vaccination. Everybody acknowledges that; it is a question of the extent to which those effects have been manifested.

My particular concern—this goes back to my point about a request for evidence—is whether the system that oversees the licensing, regulation, monitoring and analysis of medical treatments in general, and vaccines in particular, is up to scratch. There is so much speculation in the debate about what is going on, and what is true and what is not, but we seem to have some facts that we can all agree on. The first, I am afraid, is that the MHRA is significantly deficient in the way it operates. The Cumberlege report—this was referenced in the earlier debate—raised concerns about the way treatments are regulated and licensed that have not yet been addressed. I am afraid that through the covid episode many of the same concerns were manifested in relation to the vaccines.

We now know that the MHRA knew about the effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine on blood clotting as early as February 2021, but issued a warning about that only some months later—in April, a month after other countries had suspended the AZ vaccine. The MHRA also knew about the prevalence of heart problems and myocarditis in February 2021 but did nothing about it until June that year. In the intervening time, millions of people were vaccinated without the knowledge that the MHRA had. As has been said, we found out recently that Pfizer misrepresented the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. There has been very little comeback against it for that, and no meaningful fine. As we heard, just a few thousands pounds were charged in expenses.

The regulatory system that oversees the pharmaceutical companies is surely deeply conflicted, not least due to being partly funded by the pharmaceutical companies that it was set up to represent. It is significant and of concern that they have made so much money out of the vaccines, and so far do not appear to be making due recompense for some of the acknowledged harms— I am not talking about the wilder claims—that their vaccines have been responsible for. Will the Minister enlighten us on whether the indemnities against civil and Government action that the Government awarded to the vaccine manufacturers at the beginning of the production process still apply if it transpires that the companies misled the Government and the public about the safety and efficacy of their product?

The inquiry has been mentioned. There are so many unanswered questions and apparent red flags that it surprises me that the media and Parliament are not more up in arms about excess deaths. I am surprised that more attention is not being paid to this question. The fact is that this scandal—if it is a scandal—suits no one in high places in our country. It is true that we have an inquiry, but as the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton said, surely it is asking the wrong questions. It is very concerning that the module looking at the vaccination programme has been postponed. It strikes me that the inquiry is essentially asking the wrong questions; it is really just asking why we did not do more lockdowns quicker. That seems to be its prevailing question for the experts—not whether the whole response was the right one, and crucially, in the light of what we now know, whether the final response of a mass vaccination programme was as safe and effective as was claimed.

We are rightly proud in this country of the effectiveness, speed and operation of the vaccine production and roll-out. It was a triumph of effective collaboration between Government and the private sector. The operation of the roll-out was a victory that all people can acknowledge, but it is not enough to say that the roll-out was done well. Was it done safely? Did it need to be done on the scale on which it was done? Particularly, did young people need to be vaccinated at all? We all remember Kate Bingham and others saying early on that the vaccine was only for the older population. These questions are increasingly being asked by the public and raised in the media.

Let me conclude quickly with what I have been doing. I hope that we will get more answers from the Minister than I have had so far from the Government. On 17 April 2023—a year ago yesterday—I wrote privately to the Secretary of State, asking him for evidence that justified the Government’s assertion that there was no link between the vaccines and the excess deaths. I did that because I had so much correspondence from people raising that concern. I said:

“I am writing privately in this way rather than raising the question in Parliament because I am determined not to give credence to unscientific, conspiratorial accusations, nor to undermine the vaccination programme in public if it is, indeed, entirely safe and effective.”

I did not want to do this in public; I wanted to give the Government the opportunity to give me the evidence, so that I could pass it back to constituents, but I am afraid that the reply I received from a Minister was the one that we have already heard: the bland assertion that a combination of factors—flu, old age and so on—probably accounts for the excess deaths. The rest of the letter was all about what the Government were doing to combat excess deaths, and the answer was mostly “more vaccines.” I did not think that was good enough.

A year rolled by, the evidence seemed to mount, and more and more people were raising this concern, so I joined the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, Graham Stringer, my hon. Friend Sir Philip Davies, who could not be here today—he wanted me to explain that he is on important constituency business but is very much here in spirit—and others in writing this time a public letter to the Government asking the same question in more detail. We asked specifically, “What is the evidence for the definitive statement about safety and efficacy?” The Government said:

“There is no evidence linking excess deaths to the vaccine.”

If so, that is great news, but may we have the evidence on which that assertion is based?

Secondly, we asked: “Will the Department for Health, the MHRA, and the UKSHA release the data that is needed to understand what is going on?” The data that we are asking for is already made available privately to pharmaceutical companies for them to use in their safety studies of the vaccine. Why do they get it, but not the public? Why cannot independent scientists look at that data? I am sorry to say that we had replies neither to that letter, which was written in February—here we are in April—nor, after months, to the freedom of information requests that went to the agencies.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

I do not know why the Government would not want to release the data. It may be that the data could be misused and misrepresented. One way around that might be to invite research applications from our very sophisticated research ecosystem. Researchers could be given access to the data if they came forward with particular research projects. They would then be able to report on it, with external verification that they had actually used the data supplied, and not drifted too far from it.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Conservative, Devizes

That sort of practical suggestion should be considered. I would be interested in hearing the Government’s response to that. We are asking for anonymised data that poses no risk to any individuals. If the data is open and public, and the whole purpose is scientific interrogation and analysis, it should not be possible to misuse it. We need as much sunlight on that data as possible.

Let me end by repeating the commitment that I hope we will get from the Minister. I have been asking for anonymised, record-level, official mortality data, including vaccination status. That information, which is already being shared with drug companies, should be shared with Parliament and the public. If that is not possible, could the Minister explain why? Secondly, what are the sources for the definitive statement that the Government have made, most recently in October 2023—and that, I dare say, they might make again today—about there being no evidence of a link between the excess death figures and the covid-19 vaccines? I hope that there is no link. I took the vaccine—at least the first two jabs—as did most of my family and my constituents. I am sure that most people in the Public Gallery took it. We all did. I hope that the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire is wrong to assert that there is a dangerous connection.

I am reluctant to be branded a conspiracy theorist, and I still do not want to give credence to unscientific assertions, but we in this place are here to take risks—the risks of ridicule and contempt—in exchange for the privilege of being here, and I think it is right that we raise these concerns on behalf of the public, even when there is some political cost. Too many people are dying, and we must understand why.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 3:59, 18 April 2024

I will begin by picking up on a few of the points that have been raised this afternoon. First, there is a parallel with a very important report that we received last week, and to which the Government responded on Monday: the Cass review. When concerns were first raised about what was happening in gender identity development services, those of us who spoke up at that time suffered both political and public pile-ons that were very uncomfortable. It gives me no pleasure to have been vindicated by the content of the Cass review. Certainly, when Andrew Bridgen first raised his concerns on this issue, he was also subjected to a political and public pile-on. The reason I raise that is that this cannot be how we tackle thorny issues. We must have a much more reasoned and mature approach to these things, where ideological positions are not sacrosanct and we have the flexibility to engage with, and look at, the points that are being raised.

My second point is about the discussion regarding correlation versus causation. It is fair enough to say that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but it is sufficient evidence for us to start asking questions about what is actually there. That is a fundamental question that anybody who has been involved in any scientific endeavour must surely understand.

My next point is a slightly more difficult issue to raise, because it is quite emotive. Like many others in this Chamber, I have had two vaccines and a booster. My family had the same, but there is a question about the presumption that that is what saved lives. We cannot prove that, unfortunately—that is just not the way it works—but what we do have to grapple with is the fact that the treatment we were given, like any agent, can cause harm. We have a responsibility to interrogate those concerns, which is why I am very disappointed that module 4 of the inquiry has been delayed.

My last point is about the record-level data and the importance of how it is tabulated. The methodology for assessing excess deaths has changed; that might be a reasonable change in practice at a time of peace, if you like, but we have just come through a very difficult period with the pandemic. Changing the methodology immediately afterwards seems perverse at best and deeply concerning at worst, because it is important that from this moment on, we are able to understand how trends are changing in a directly comparable way. With a change in methodology, that becomes impossible, so it is not a good idea—just in terms of scientific rigour, it is problematic.

I will start off my contribution by expanding on some of the comments I made during the debate on 16 January, because we had very limited time to speak in that debate. I want to take us a step back, away from the emotive issue of whether there is correlation, causation, and a relationship between excess deaths and the covid vaccine, and remind ourselves of the principles that underpin how clinical trials should be conducted. The ethical principles that underpin those trials have their origin in the declaration of Helsinki and are consistent with internationally published good clinical practice guidelines and, obviously, all of the regulatory mechanisms that fall out from those guidelines.

Anybody who has been involved in clinical trials of any type will know that, as I have said, any agent has the potential to cause injury or harm. That is just the nature of the beast, and one of the things we try to establish during a clinical trial is to find out the harm, however minimal or maximal it may be, so as to mitigate it, manage it or rule the agent out because it is too risky. Performing such a test rigorously is the foundation of good clinical practice, and I make these comments as someone who has been involved in the management and delivery of clinical trials over many years. I think that, as politicians, as clinicians and as the industry, we all carry a duty of honesty and candour in these matters.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

With the hon. Gentleman’s experience, and he has looked at the Pfizer trial documents, is it not clear that Pfizer only trialled the experimental vaccine for eight weeks with a 22,000 vaccination group and a 22,000 placebo group, and then it vaccinated the placebo group? So how can anyone tell anybody what the long-term effects of these vaccines are when people were only ever monitored for eight weeks after vaccination?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I thank the hon. Gentleman, who makes a really important point. The answer to that is that it is impossible, and that is the fundamental point. We cannot measure late effects if we do not have evidence of late effects.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

Would the hon. Gentleman inform the House, in what is normally done, what percentage of medicines are normally subjected to a longitudinal study before they are put on the market?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I am sorry, but I did not quite catch the hon. Gentleman’s question.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what percentage of medicines that normally go to market are subjected to a longitudinal study, which is what he is talking about, before that is done?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

That was not actually the point I was making. I was making the point that any clinical trial, whether something is ruled in or ruled out, is subject to GCP guidelines, and it is up to the medical research ethics committee to sign off the protocol.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Well, the hon. Gentleman can shake his head, but that is my experience. I worked at University College London Hospitals and the Royal Marsden, and those are the principles that we applied in such a context. I can only speak to my experience. I am not a member of the ABPI, so I cannot give him those types of data. I am talking about GCP as a general principle. If he does not believe in GCP as a general principle, that is a different discussion.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I am no apologist for big pharma companies, but does the hon. Member not acknowledge that there was time pressure in producing a vaccine to mitigate all the things we have heard about—lockdowns, our economy being stalled and all the rest of it? Does he not acknowledge that there was time pressure?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I think we all understand the situation that we were in. I am not using a retrospectoscope to say that things should not have been done in the way they were done. However, they should have been conducted absolutely in accordance with GCP guidelines, and that is the fundamental crux of the matter. I am not suggesting for a moment that that was not the spirit in which the various companies entered into this, but we are talking about—

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Will the hon. Gentleman let me finish the point I am making?

I am sorry, but I have now forgotten the point I was going to make to the hon. Lady. I do not think anybody entered into this to do the wrong thing, but there are fundamental questions about how we move things forward now and whether harm was inflicted as part of the administration of these agents.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

I am very grateful. I raise this because Andrew Bridgen made a point about timelines, saying that the trial was done in eight weeks and asking how the vaccine could possibly be safe. The reason why I mentioned longitudinal studies is that a common deliberate attempt to mislead people about what went on with the vaccine is to suggest that, because the trial was done over a short period of time, it could not possibly have been done correctly. Typically, trials take a long time because it takes a long time to recruit the right number of patients and to do the work. In such a trial, the same number of patients go through it over a longer period, but that does not change the baseline data, which is based on how many patients there are. We do not typically use longitudinal studies, and that vaccine trial was done by using a lot of people in a short space of time to create the same amount of evidence.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarifying point. People I have spoken to who were involved in those clinical trials have raised serious and significant concerns about the way that their experience after the drug was administered to them, and the impact that it had on them in an acute way, was either minimised or written out of trial data. That is a serious allegation, and everyone should be interested in understanding the detail. It is certainly not what I would understand would fit within the principles of GCP, and there are serious questions about how trial studies were conducted. As the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire said, the longitudinal element of that was impossible—we are now seeing that—but that does not mean we can ignore it, absolutely not. The principles I have been outlining are there because they are the basis on which good science is established and based.

Let me move to some of the questions that we must raise and answer today, openly and transparently, and with full access to ONS record-level data. I am not saying that that should be disclosed to all and sundry, but surely the Government cannot defend the position that they are not willing to release that information to interested clinicians and clinical academics as a minimum. Those are the people who need to interrogate the data. It is of little relevance to me—I do not have the means or academic ability to interpret it—but it is something that interested clinical academics should have access to.

Let me move on to what we know about some of the issues surrounding mRNA technology. We know that it does not replicate locally, as we were assured it would do on launch. It metastasises to distant tissue, and replicates spike protein systemically distant from the site of administration. That is problematic for a number of reasons. According to the University of London Professor of Oncology, and principal of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy, Professor Angus Dalgleish, this has precipitated various serious and sometimes fatal consequences due to antibody development mediated by the spike protein. I will not go into the detail of that, but at a meeting convened by the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire, Professor Dalgleish told us that the UK Government and their agencies are in serious denial about this issue, resulting in many deaths being poorly understood.

Let me give a couple of examples. Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia is one of the principal causes of blood clot formation, which can cause stroke, pulmonary emboli, and other cardiac-related events including heart attacks, all of which can be life-limiting or fatal. Another antibody linked to the spike protein exerts an effect on myelin, and is associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome and transverse myelitis, which is a swelling around the spinal cord. Professor Dalgleish believes that that constitutes medical negligence, because the facts are there for all to see. He contends that many deaths are as a direct result of unnecessary vaccination. Furthermore, he advises that there are a greater number of yellow cards in MHRA for covid vaccines than for all other vaccines recorded, and nothing has really been done.

In a recent written answer to me, it was confirmed that the MHRA has received 489,004 spontaneous suspected adverse drug reaction reports relating to the covid-19 vaccine, up to and including 28 February this year. Across the United Kingdom, 2,734 of those reports were associated with a fatal outcome. Of course the true number is unknown—that is the nature of yellow card reporting, as only a fraction of adverse events are reported—and that is probably because of limited public awareness about some of the potential consequences and complications of vaccines, and the well-understood under-reporting of those adverse events. That is important, because the yellow card system is a key element of safe and effective clinical care. If things are not being evaluated properly, I can think of no greater betrayal of the MHRA’s clinical governance responsibility. I suggest that accountability for that must be swift and decisive. The rigorous assessment of these data is essential and must be actioned urgently. Will the Minister now engage with the MHRA and invite it to come to the House to explain the facts on these reports?

Another issue, which arises from a further written question that I tabled, relates to the role of the MHRA. It has a crucial role—in fact, it is a statutory function—to provide post-marketing surveillance and to operate the yellow card system, but the Minister responded to my question about the assessment of the potential implications of the BMJ article “Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ‘likely’ responsible for deaths of some elderly patients, Norwegian review finds” by stating:

“The MHRA communicates safety advice based upon consideration of the totality of evidence from all relevant information sources, rather than the strengths and limitations of individual data sources.”

Surely, a fundamental step in any meta-analysis of published data is to interrogate the robustness of those data and for the public to have confidence that that is happening.

That point links right back to where I started, on the Cass report. One of the fundamental failings that the report identified was circular citation among various different organisations. They were validating one another’s position to create a false impression that there was an evidence base for the practice they were involved in. If the MHRA will say, “We do not interrogate the data when we do a meta-analysis,” who does? Who will validate the data? If I can hand over to the MHRA a whole load of numbers and it will just count them and accept that I have said my methodological rigour is robust, that is not good enough as far as I am concerned.

The Minister’s response to my written question was that the MHRA does not

“assign causality at the level of individual reports,” as that is not its responsibility. If that is the case, whose responsibility is it? Who is interrogating the data and making that decision? If no one is, how can we get from correlation to a developed picture of causation? That is an essential step. It raises fundamental questions about that responsibility and the reliability of the data that the MHRA is relying on. If we are to learn anything from the general implications of the Cass report, we must have a clear steer from the MHRA on how these fundamental scientific principles will be observed and upheld.

I will canter through some important published evidence, which comes back to the correlation/causation discussion. In a 2021 study looking at cardiac inflammatory markers in patients receiving mRNA vaccines, Steven Gundry observed that mRNA vaccination numerically increased markers

“previously described by others for denoting inflammation on the endothelium and T cell infiltration of cardiac muscle” in a patient population receiving the vaccine. A 2022 study by Fraiman et al. noted that the

“excess risk of serious adverse events” identified in their study pointed

“to the need for formal harm-benefit analyses”.

That suggestion is wholly consistent with the principles set out in the declaration of Helsinki and is an ethical imperative.

In 2023, a pre-print Lancet study by Nicolas Hulscher et al., including leading cardiologist Peter McCullough and Yale epidemiologist Harvey Risch, reviewed 325 autopsies after covid vaccination and found that 74% of the deaths were attributable to the vaccine. That study, which was published online, was then swiftly removed, allegedly for issues with ideological rigour. I wonder whether it was the MHRA that did the assessment of its rigour. Surely those data and findings—however problematic some of the methodology might have been—demand further scrutiny, not removal.

A December 2023 Lancet Regional Health study by Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard et al. examined excess mortality in England post the covid-19 pandemic and the implications for secondary prevention. It stated:

“Many countries, including the UK, have continued to experience an apparent excess of deaths long after the peaks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Numbers of excess deaths estimated in this period are considerable.”

It noted that

“overall trends tend to be consistent across the various methods.”

It continued:

“The causes of these excess deaths are likely to be multiple…Further analysis by cause and by age- and sex-group may help quantify the relative contributions of these causes.”

I ask again: should we not at least be curious about this?

The study continued:

“The greatest numbers of excess deaths in the acute phase of the pandemic were in older adults. The pattern now is one of persisting excess deaths which are most prominent in relative terms in middle-aged and younger adults, with deaths from CVD causes and deaths in private homes being most affected.”

That is a completely different clinical picture. It continued:

“Timely and granular analyses are needed to describe such trends and so to inform prevention and disease management efforts.”

Documents recently disclosed as part of a freedom of information lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration indicate that the agency was aware that the safety monitoring system for Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine was “not sufficient” for assessing associated heart conditions when it licensed the company’s vaccine. Those documents also reveal numerous manufacturing concerns with Pfizer batches that were released to the public and show that the FDA knew about a phenomenon known as vaccine-associated enhanced diseases in those who were vaccinated and experienced breakthrough covid-19.

Let us move on to what we do not know. We have had no real progress on the points raised in the debate, particularly on record-level data. We need either that data to be released to clinical academics and others or a cogent explanation for why that is not happening. Why were those concerns kept hidden by the FDA? Are similar concerns or issues being hidden by the UK Government? Some of the points made about the delay in the MHRA taking action on clinical impacts is relevant to that point.

According to a House of Commons Library briefing, the Government-operated vaccine damage payment scheme, which has been discussed in both this debate and the previous one, provides only a one-off tax-free payment, which is currently a modest £120,000, to applicants where a vaccine has caused severe disablement. Data on VDPS claims relating to covid-19 vaccination is not routinely published, so we do not have particular metrics that establish how many claims are being made against those vaccines.

The most recent data is from September 2023. According to the NHS Business Services Authority, at that time it had received 7,160 claims relating to covid-19. Following medical assessment, 142 claims—just under 2%—were awarded, and 3,030 were rejected. A further 192 claims were found to be “invalid”. We need to understand why that was. What are claims being measured against and who is interpreting the clinical assessment information? We must also ask whether the exclusion criteria are reliable, given the concerns raised in the debate.

Based on the data that I have here, there are currently 3,796 unresolved claims, 1,010 of which have been unresolved for more than six months. If the 142 successful claims receive the full payment, the total cost will be around £17 million. If there are a further 177 successful claims from the unresolved cases, the associated cost will be a further £21 million. I am advised that the Government set aside some funding for this issue, but this has the hallmarks of the contaminated blood scandal written all over it. We must get ahead of the game and make sure that people get the compensation that they desperately need at a time when it is important to them.

There is another question: why are the Government so willing to pick up the tab on vaccine injury, however inadequate the scheme is, given the fatalities and the significant life-limiting impact on the victims? These concerns have been amplified significantly following the publication in The Spectator Australia of an account by genomics scientist Kevin McKernan of his accidental discovery. It states:

“While running an experiment in his Boston lab, McKernan used some vials of mRNA Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines as controls. He was ‘shocked’ to find that they were allegedly contaminated with tiny fragments of plasmid DNA.”

His concern has been considered further by Professor Angus Dalgleish, who noted that the contaminant, simian virus 40, is

“a sequence that is ‘used to drive DNA into the nucleus, especially in gene therapies’ and that this is ‘something that regulatory agencies around the world have specifically said is not possible with the mRNA vaccines’. These SV40 promotors are also well recognised as being oncogenic”— or cancer-inducing genetic material. Other scientists have confirmed those findings. Professor Dalgleish further notes:

“To put it bluntly, this means that they are not vaccines at all but a…Genetically Modified Organism that should have been subject to totally different regulatory conditions and certainly not be classed as vaccines.”

Worryingly, Professor Dalgleish also notes that oncologists have contacted him from across the world, and the consensus is that this is thought to be precipitating relapse in melanoma, lymphoma, leukaemia and kidney cancers. He concludes with the following warning:

“To advise booster vaccines, as is the current case, is no more and no less than medical incompetence;
to continue to do so”— with his cited evidence—

“is medical negligence which can carry a custodial sentence.”

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution and his quotes from Professor Angus Dalgleish, who I remind the House is the most cited oncologist in the UK. I invited him here to witness this debate since he had some input into it. He could not attend, because he is speaking at a conference in Berlin on this very issue.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of information and for acknowledging an important scientist in this debate. It is a great honour to have worked in the same institutions as Professor Dalgleish, as he provides great leadership on this technology. He makes a valuable and impeccable contribution to this problem. He concluded that piece by saying:

“No ifs or buts any longer. All mRNA vaccines must be halted and banned now.”

Will the Minister answer the following question? Is big pharma being exempted from liability, and if so, why? The loss of trust in big pharma is substantial and, worryingly, because of that the value of vaccination itself has been deeply damaged. Personally—I say this frankly—I will never accept another mRNA vaccine, and I am far from alone. Will the Minster agree to full disclosure of the data and an investigation of the facts? Will she also commit to instructing the Office for National Statistics to release the record level data, or will it take someone like New Zealander Barry Young, a whistleblower imprisoned for publishing its record level data, to surface concerns about the covid vaccine programme? As we have seen with the Horizon scandal, the Government must never bury the facts when lives are being lost and futures destroyed. There is no greater betrayal.

In closing, the foundations of good clinical practice are under threat. I will put that in context with the December 2023 Pathology Research and Practice paper on “Gene-based covid-19 vaccines” from Rhodes and Parry. They gave the following warning:

“Pandemic management requires societal coordination, global orchestration, respect for human rights and defence of ethical principles. Yet some approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by socioeconomic, corporate, and political interests, have undermined key pillars of ethical medical science.”

None of these clinical experts are quacks or conspiracy theorists. As the Government said so often during the pandemic, we must follow the science.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care) 4:31, 18 April 2024

I congratulate Andrew Bridgen on securing the debate, and the Backbench Business Committee on granting time for it. I thank Members who have contributed, including my hon. Friend Graham Stringer, and the hon. Members for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), for Devizes (Danny Kruger) and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey). It would be remiss of me not to thank those who participated with extensive interventions, including Stephen Metcalfe, the Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley, who is no longer in his place, Dr Mullan and Wera Hobhouse.

We have had a good and I think fairly measured debate, given the strong feelings held on both sides of it. It is probably important to accurately define the subject we are discussing here today. The term “excess deaths” is not new, nor in any way derived directly from the covid-19 pandemic. It is a key statistic continuously tracked by Governments of all colours and political persuasions over a number of years. It is data that helps Ministers to keep informed, and to inform policy development and measures to improve health outcomes in our communities.

Vaccines in the covid-19 pandemic were and, importantly, remain an essential tool in our fight against covid-19.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

I will not give way; I am just opening.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in this respect. I think it is evident from the covid death data during the pandemic throughout the lockdowns that covid-related deaths came down significantly almost immediately as the vaccine was rolled out. What we can say, as the hon. Member for Christchurch did in his contribution, is that for many millions of people in this country, the vaccine was a success and it allowed us to return to lives that were as near normal as possible. However, we must not underestimate the fact that covid-19 was a massive killer in this country. We only have to look at the wall across the river from the Palace of Westminster to see the impact covid-19 had on communities up and down the country. I and the Opposition remain firmly of the view that the covid-19 vaccines played a massive, fundamental role in returning life to normal.

As happens with any form of medical intervention, there have been instances of harmful side effects—no one disputes that—and when those are found, they should of course be properly investigated. The efficacy of drugs needs to be reviewed over periods of time, and the science needs to be fully understood and responded to. That, I think, is true of any drug that is available on the national health service. I should also say that the hon. Member for Christchurch raised some very fair points about the covid vaccine damage payment scheme. We have had debates about it in Westminster Hall, and I think he is right to raise those concerns as eloquently as he does.

I will always be open to the testing of scientific evidence, but, as a number of Members have pointed out today, for millions of us the vaccines have been a game changer in overcoming the worst fears of covid-19. They have allowed us to return to normality, and, most important of all, they have saved lives. We do need to understand more about why for some they have caused reactions, and in some cases may have tragically led to fatalities, which is why I think the hon. Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock was right to say that we need to get to the bottom of that data. But investigation and review should not be allowed to frighten people who, to this day, are still deeply vulnerable, away from taking the covid vaccine boosters, and it is important for us to send out the message that those who need the boosters should have them.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

I should put it on record that I am fully vaccinated, that I was a supporter of the vaccines when they first came out, and that I am a supporter of them now and will continue to be. I think that they play a huge role in managing serious disease. My concern at the moment is that the tone of some of this debate is undermining not only the reputation of our scientists, but the efficacy of vaccine programmes in the future. I do not want to shut down the debate about the topic. We need to find a way of filling the evidence gap, and I hope we can do that collectively by encouraging research so that potentially wild and untested theories do not fill that vacuum.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman. We know that there is a cohort of people for whom the covid-19 vaccines have led to reactions, and we know that there is, tragically, a cohort of people who have died. We need to learn more about the impact of this set of vaccines on that cohort, but for the vast majority of people the covid-19 vaccines have been a huge success, and we should not let people think that they are at risk from them. In fact, many people who are being asked right now to take the vaccines because they are immunosuppressed are at risk of not taking them, and we need to ensure that they are protected. I, too, am fully vaccinated, and because of my own ongoing health issues I have just been invited for my next booster, which I will be taking.

We know that the virus itself has been a key driver of excess mortality, and it continues to have an impact across our communities to this day. I understand that, and I understand that covid affects many people. I still struggle with long covid. In fact, my long covid has been much worse than the actual covid infection that I got in March 2020, way before any vaccines were even dreamt of. There are lots of people who are in a far worse situation, because they have not yet been able to return to work or to near full fitness. Even to this day, I still struggle with the impacts of a covid infection right at the start of the first wave of covid in March 2020, and it debilitated me for the best part of two years.

Millions of clinically vulnerable people—the hon. Member for Christchurch rightly raised this—continue to shield and live with the constant reminder of the impact that the virus can have on them, because they are not able to take the vaccine and they do not have the necessary level of protection for their own health needs to be able to return to anything like a near normal lifestyle. He mentioned Evusheld and Evusheld 2, and I very much support the right of clinically vulnerable communities to access those drugs so that they can regain the freedoms that we have all benefited from. I will continue to communicate with those communities and, where I can, seek to amplify their concerns.

Yes, covid is part of the picture, but across the board we have seen an increase in the incidence of major conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, all of which have contributed to the figures on excess deaths. The way to fight back against those numbers is to inform people responsibly about their health and wellbeing, and about the measures that are in place to protect them. It is also about ensuring that our health service is fit for the future. We need an NHS that is rooted in the communities that it serves, ensuring that people can access care when and where they need it. The NHS must embrace new technologies as essential for diagnosing and treating people as quickly as possible, and it must move from being a national sickness service to putting prevention front and centre. Only by doing so can we have an NHS that learns the lessons from the pandemic and ensures that, where mistakes were made in the past, they are learned from and not repeated in future pandemics.

That is the kind of thing we need to do as a Parliament, and it is the kind of thing that I hope the next Labour Government will be able to do. Until then, we will fully support the current Government in making sure the message is sent out loudly and clearly that the covid-19 vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself and your loved ones from what is still a terrible virus.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women) 4:42, 18 April 2024

Apologies for my croaky voice. I will try to respond to all the points that I can.

I thank Andrew Bridgen for securing this important debate. As the Opposition have rightly said, it is important that we have the debate in a measured way, because there are strong feelings on all sides. Those who have concerns about vaccines, lockdowns and the way pandemics are managed are right to raise them, but it is also right and proper that people express the view that vaccines protect people and that difficult decisions had to be made. As Graham Stringer highlighted, it is much easier to come to different conclusions with hindsight. It is really important that as we go forward, still living with covid, we continue our discussions in a measured debate on all sides. In recent weeks, we have seen the impact of people not being able to speak freely about their concerns regarding the Post Office or the Tavistock centre.

As I said, we have had a number of debates on this issue, including in January, when I acknowledged that the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire was correct to say that we have seen excess deaths in recent years. However, excess deaths are not new; they were happening before covid and have happened since then as well. It is important to look at the figures, because the Office for National Statistics indicates that the number of excess deaths has been reducing, year on year, since the high in 2020, when there were 66,740 excess deaths in England. I can only talk about England because health is obviously devolved and the Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own data. In 2022, that number went down to 37,701, and in 2023, there were just 10,206 excess deaths in England. It is important to remember that every single one of those is a person, a family member, and a loved one, but it may reassure hon. Members greatly, as it does me, that the ONS has reported negative excess deaths for every week so far in 2024.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

After a pandemic, which we have been out of for quite some years, we would expect a deficit in deaths, so why have we not had a deficit for the past two years, in which we have not had the covid pandemic?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

The hon. Gentleman may have missed my last sentence before his intervention. I said that the ONS data shows that in every week in 2024 so far, we have had negative excess deaths. That goes specifically to his point.

We are not complacent, though. As I set out in previous debates, when we have seen those rises in excess deaths—and we have seen significant excess deaths—we have looked at that data to see the cause behind it, whether it is the vaccine, covid, or other factors. We have been working so hard, and I am really pleased that we are now starting to see negative excess deaths.

Let me highlight some of the work that we have been doing in looking at those figures. We had an incident of high flu prevalence in 2022, with a peak of 31.8% of flu tests being positive. That is highly likely to be because we locked down the country for two years and people’s immune systems were not used to flu. That is why, last winter, we brought forward our flu vaccine, and extended it the year before to the over 65s; we recognised that people’s immunity to flu and respiratory illnesses was low because we had locked them down. I think that we need to be honest about that. This winter, as a result, we have seen fewer admissions and fewer deaths from flu and respiratory illnesses.

We have also seen challenges with other health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiac disease, for which people would routinely have come forward for checks. Routine treatments and access to appointments are difficult even now, given the backlog of examinations and tests that need to happen. When we looked at this, we saw that last year, the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease was 2% higher than expected, with there having been more than 2,200 excess deaths.

That is why we are reinvesting in our NHS health check. It was on pause during covid, when people could not get their blood pressure or cholesterol checked and could not go on smoking prevention programmes. We restarted those, and as a result, excess deaths from cardiac disease are starting to fall. We want to use the opportunity to roll out our new digital health checks. We recognise that access to GPs is sometimes difficult, but this roll-out is expected to deliver an additional 1 million checks in the first four years. We also have a £10 million pilot to deliver cardiovascular checks in the workplace. Again, that is about making it as easy as possible for people to get checked. We have our Pharmacy First roll-out as well. That is all for general health purposes. We know that all these things contributed to excess death rates.

I want to touch on the crux of the matter, which is the covid vaccine; that has come through in all these debates. I was not a Health Minister at the time, so I did not have to make these difficult decisions, but the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton is absolutely right: as the pandemic preparedness Minister, I want the findings of the inquiry. I have to make difficult decisions now about potential future pandemics that may never happen, but could happen tomorrow—we just do not know. The results of the inquiry with regard to lockdowns, face masks and vaccines will all be really useful information, and at the moment, I am not much the wiser on those results.

On module 4, I want to see any evidence about vaccine safety, because that is how we learn. I think we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. We want to do the best, but during the pandemic, when we watched TV footage from around the world, and the media were often pushing us to lock down harder, faster and longer, we had to make difficult decisions without the benefit of hindsight.

I went back to the wards during covid, and I looked after covid patients who were being treated for cancer. We lost many of them, and we lost a number of staff, too. I have seen this from both sides of the fence.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

Of all the concerning points that Andrew Bridgen made in his opening speech, particularly abhorrent was the suggestion that people who were not eligible for a ventilator were essentially condemned to death. That is a deeply disturbing thing to say, and it does not reflect my experience. I was privileged to volunteer on the frontline, as the Minister did, and I saw staff battling as best they could to save people, using all the medical treatments available, whatever the patient’s age. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to those staff who worked so hard to save as many lives as they could?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

Absolutely, and I thank my hon. Friend for his work during those difficult times. We did not have a vaccine in those days, and we did not know how long covid was going to last. I reassure the relatives who are listening to this debate that we treated every single patient in the best way we could. If they needed a ventilator, we often had to ship them out of hospital to get them to a ventilator, but they got one. If they did not need a ventilator, we treated them. We did not leave people to die, and I reassure relatives who might think that we did that it certainly was not my experience of looking after patients.

It is important to look at the data on covid vaccinations. The Office for National Statistics published data last August showing that people who received a covid-19 vaccination had a lower mortality rate than those who had not been vaccinated. Given that 93.6% of the population has been vaccinated with either one or two doses, or multiple does, it is almost impossible to determine correlation versus causation. Vaccinated people will feature highly in excess death numbers because most people have been vaccinated, which is why we need to go through the data really carefully and not just take the first data at face value.

The covid virus continues to circulate, and we are now living with covid. Some people are still very vulnerable to covid, although the current variant is obviously less severe than the initial variant. We have just had our spring vaccine roll-out, and those who are invited should please go to get their vaccine. We know that it makes a difference to the most vulnerable. Over this winter, after both the flu and covid vaccine roll-outs, we have seen a significant reduction in hospital admissions.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

When will the immunosuppressed have access to Evusheld? Will it be this week, next week, sometime or never?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

That is a clinical decision, but now that we have the omicron variant, the evidence for Evusheld’s effectiveness is not as compelling.

Returning to the crux of the matter, there are risks and benefits to every single medicine when the regulator or NICE is weighing up whether to license or fund a product. If the advice coming to us is that, with omicron, the benefits of Evusheld do not outweigh the risks, we have to take that advice. People are not currently being advised to shield, but I recognise that people are very nervous, particularly when they cannot have the vaccine. We are in constant touch with NICE and the MHRA on this, but we have to respect their decision if it is felt that a product will not benefit patients.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

I thank the Minister for giving way. She is very generous.

Using her medical experience, can the Minister explain to the House—I am befuddled by this—how a systemic vaccine injected into the arm, into the blood and creating an antibody response, can stop an infection of the airways and lungs by a respiratory virus? It has never happened, and it did not happen this time either, did it? How can it do that?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

That is actually what antibodies do.

I will answer some of the many questions that have been asked in this debate. I reiterate that no medicine or vaccine is completely risk free. Even simple paracetamol has the potential to kill people if it is not taken properly, and people with certain conditions might not be able to take it at all. We have monitoring systems in place. The MHRA, which I know has come under criticism, took a stand when in April 2021, following concerns raised through the yellow card system, it reduced access for the under-30s and then for the under-40s. When concerns are raised, it absolutely takes action. There are now recommendations about the type of vaccine, and about whom we vaccinate, bearing in mind the current evidence.

I have said that no vaccine is 100% safe, which is why we have the vaccine damage payment scheme. I hear concerns about that, and I have met my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope to discuss it. We took the scheme off the Department for Work and Pensions and moved it into the Department of Health and Social Care to speed it up and get claims turned around more quickly. We have had more than 4,000 claims, 170 of which have been awarded. Roughly speaking, the majority of claims are decided on within six months, and the vast majority are decided on within 12 months. Of course, we want to speed up on those. We recognise the time limit of three years, which is why we are working as hard as we can to get through as many claims as possible, so that if people have been affected by the covid vaccine, they get some help and support through that funding.

My hon. Friend Stephen Metcalfe raised the issue of research. We are absolutely researching the issue of covid-19 vaccines—not just future types of vaccines, but their safety. There is £110 million from the National Institute for Health and Care Research going specifically into covid-19 vaccine safety, and I encourage all Members to keep an eye on that as the evidence comes forward.

I have to give the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire a few minutes to reply, so I will just say that we take this issue extremely seriously. I know that as a Minister, I will be responsible—

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

I will not, as I have to let the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire respond. We take this issue very seriously. I have been as open and transparent as I can be. If there are concerns, we will always look into them, but there is no doubt that covid vaccines save lives. There is no doubt that some people have experienced harm from them—we acknowledge that, and we want to help and support people who have been affected—but the vaccines did get us out of the pandemic and we need to be mindful of that as well.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, let me thank all the hon. Members who have taken part in a debate that has been robust, as it should be, given the gravity of the issue. I wish this debate were not needed; I wish the experimental covid-19 vaccines were safe and effective, but they are not. The longer we go on not admitting the problem, the bigger the problem that will come, and the greater the harm that will continue to be caused. Those in this House can continue to deny that the vaccines are causing harm and deaths, and the legacy media can continue to censor all reports of vaccine harms and excess deaths, but the people know, in increasing numbers, because they are the ones who are losing their loved ones and relatives. I urge the Government: release the control-level data, and let us sort this out once and for all.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the covid-19 pandemic response and trends in excess deaths;
and calls on the Covid-19 Inquiry to move onto its module four investigation into vaccines and therapeutics as soon as possible.