Watch: Boris Johnson warns people not to 'get their hopes up' over speed of COVID vaccine
Boris Johnson warns ‘don’t get your hopes up’ over speed of COVID vaccine rollout
UK is first country in world to approve Pfizer/BioNTech jab
Vaccines begin next week but PM says three-tier system of local restrictions is of ‘continuing importance’
Despite hailing the “unquestionably good news” that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA), Johnson urged caution about the rate at which doses will be delivered.
He told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs): “I think at this stage it is very, very important that people do not get their hopes up too soon about the speed with which we’ll be able to roll out this vaccine.
“It is beginning… next week. We are expecting several million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year. We will then be rolling it out as fast as we possibly can.”
He said questions over the speed of the vaccine rollout mean the three-tier system of local restrictions – which came into force on Wednesday after England’s national lockdown ended – are of “continuing importance”.
“As we roll out the vaccine over the next few weeks, we will need to keep that tough tiering, and testing regimes, in place.”
Johnson was responding to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who asked when people in the top two priority groups can expect to be vaccinated.
Those two groups are:
Residents in care homes for older people, and their carers
People aged 80 and over, as well as frontline health and social care workers
The UK is the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups.
The government has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two doses given 21 days apart.
Some 800,000 doses are set to arrive next week, with millions more in the following weeks.
Starmer raised concerns about public confidence in the vaccine, adding: “That’s going to be crucial to the success of getting this rolled out across the country, getting our economy back up and running.”
“We’ve got the highest regulatory and medical safety standards in the world but it’s really important we do everything possible to counter dangerous, frankly life-threatening disinformation about vaccines.”
The Labour leader called for the government to introduce emergency legislation to “clamp down on this”, with “financial penalties for companies that fail to act”.
Johnson did not commit, however. He only said the government will “publish a paper”.
“We are, of course, working to tackle all kinds of disinformation across the internet and he’s right to single out the anti-vaxxers and those who I think are totally wrong in their approach.
“And he’s right to encourage take-up of vaccines across the country and we’ll be publishing a paper very shortly on online harms designed to tackle the very disinformation that he speaks of.”
Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work