I support the motion, which deals with an amendment to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which govern the arrangements across the UK for the licensing, manufacture, wholesale dealing, sale and supply of human medicines for human use.
The 2012 regulations were amended in 2020 to temporarily set aside some of the normal rules governing the preparation of COVID-19 and flu vaccines and their supply to patients. Those amendments were used to address legal issues that came up in relation to mass vaccination. Of course, those were temporary changes, and therefore the statutory instrument before us is necessary to make some of them permanent. Those arrangements include the range of registered healthcare professionals who can administer flu and COVID vaccines. There is also an extension to 31 March 2024 of the ability to share flu and COVID vaccine stocks between locations without the need for a wholesale dealer licence, which will allow for the final stages of the coronavirus vaccination programme to be completed without the need for additional marketing authorisations or manufacturing licences to be in place.
The legislative changes before us are sensible, and they will see us through what we all hope is the tail end of the pandemic. We are all very grateful for the fantastic roll-out of the vaccination services and to the very many people who were involved in rolling them out so swiftly to protect the public. I support the motion.
Likewise, the SDLP supports the motion. We all know the importance of having access to those vaccines, so, if we can ensure that the process by which they reach our vaccination centres is streamlined and more efficient, it will only benefit the public by providing better access, which is exactly what we need most.
Quite literally, the vaccines save lives. Unfortunately, many communities across the world have not had access to them yet. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is my hope, and that of the SDLP, that access to a range of vaccines in the global neighbourhood, particularly in developing nations, will be more streamlined and efficient, as it is here, to ensure that those who need them most can get them. We support the motion.
I support the regulations. Ultimately, the regulations arise from the largely successful vaccine programmes for the coronavirus and the flu virus since 2020. They enable the extension of some aspects of the provision of human medicines for a further two years to April 2024. In effect, they also enable the permanent carrying out of vaccination programmes in the way that we have seen them being carried out over the past 18 months.
It does not need to be re-emphasised how important it is for us to ensure that vaccinations are available and carried out in as widespread a manner as possible, given that, alongside developing treatments and voluntary adaptations to behaviour, they are our sole defence against what continues to be a deadly virus. The amendments to existing law will enable the ongoing provision of broad public coronavirus vaccination programmes alongside those for flu. That should provide significant reassurance to the population of Northern Ireland and across the UK.
I continue to urge those who have not been vaccinated or who have not had all the vaccines to which they are entitled to come forward. That remains our best way of protecting ourselves, our health service and each other.
I thank the Health Committee Chair, Deputy Chair and members for their contributions. The importance of the vaccination programme has been well rehearsed, not just today but throughout the past number of months. I thank Members for their contributions and for how they approached the SIs. I have heard the SIs described in the past, and in this debate, as offering a practical and flexible approach and as sensible and efficient, and that is why I thank Members for supporting this SI.
Ms Bradshaw encouraged everyone to come forward and take the opportunity to get vaccinated. That applies not just to the COVID vaccine, should that be the first, second or booster dose, but to our flu vaccine programme, our HPV programme and all the school programmes, including meningitis programmes, that we have running. Those programmes are well-established in the public health response to many concerns in Northern Ireland.
I commend this SI to the House.
Question put and agreed to. Resolved:
That the draft Human Medicines (Coronavirus and Influenza) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 be approved.