Thursday 21 January 2021 / 11:12 AM Coronavirus / Jonathan Ashworth

Jonathan Ashworth responds to Health Secretary’s statement on vaccine roll-out

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to Matt Hancock’s answer to an Urgent Question on the vaccine roll-out, said:

Mr Speaker, yesterday I visited the vaccination centre at Leicester racecourse. It was inspirational to see the joy on the faces of those vaccinated and the pride of the staff and volunteers.

It’s a reminder that when the NHS is in put in charge and tasked with implementing a large scale project across our communities, they get on with it and deliver.

Today we have had the latest REACT survey of infections from Imperial. The findings are alarming. It’s especially concerning that infections are so high in London. Yet London and the East Of England appear to behind the rest of country in vaccine roll out. So what action is being taken to drive up vaccination rates in London and the East of England?

Can he assure us that he will meet his target to vaccinate all care home residents by end of the week?

Yesterday the Prime Minister referred to ‘constraints in supply.’ What are these constraints, what guarantees has he got from manufacturers that they will be resolved and by when?

The Imperial survey also highlights disproportionate infection rates amongst key workers – those workers will still be going to work in this lockdown – and the  infection rates amongst Black and Minority Ethnic communities.

So once the nine priority groups are vaccinated will those occupational groups most exposed teachers, police officers, firefighter, transport workers and supermarket staff be prioritised?

There are 11,000 community pharmacies, that mean up to 30,000 pharmacists, at the heart of delivering the vaccine. We should be using them not just because of the volumes of doses they can administer, but because they have years of experience of building trust and vaccine acceptability with hard to reach groups and minority ethnic communities.

I heard this when speaking pharmacists in Dudley this week. They also raised concerns about wider supply of consumables needed to administer the vaccine. Can he guarantee there will be no delays or shortages in the delivery of this wider kit?

The new variants remind us we have to go further and faster with vaccination and work harder to break transmission chains. Early analysis suggests the South African B1351 variant brings a reinfection risk which may mean we need redesign of the vaccines. What contingency plans is he putting in place now, should that be necessary?

Yesterday 1,820 deaths recorded. Truly horrific. Vaccination has to go hand in hand with measures to suppress the virus.

So can I say directly, not everybody Secretary of State, can isolate comfortably at home when required. The current system effectively asks families to go hungry to stop spreading infection. So can I urge him again to provide decent sick pay and financial support, to help push infections down.