POLITICS
04/05/2020 19:30 BST | Updated 05/05/2020 08:40 BST

Health Secretary Says 'Vaccines Save Lives' In Message To Anti-Vax Movement

Matt Hancock said "very, very high levels" of vaccination could be achieved without making it compulsory.

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Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned the anti-vaccination movement that medical research can save lives and “get the world moving again” after the Covid-19 outbreak clears.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Monday, the minister said anti-vaxxers should see there was “no greater demonstration in modern history” that proved vaccines were needed than the deadly coronavirus.

It comes amid protests across the globe against the use of vaccines and as prime minister Boris Johnson led an international conference which raised £6.6bn for medical research into tackling Covid-19.

The global death toll from the disease is thought to stand at around 248,000, which includes 28,734 fatalities in the UK.

Hancock said: “I think there is no greater demonstration in modern history that vaccines save lives than the need for a vaccine to save lives and get the world going again following the outbreak of Covid-19.” 

He added: “If and when the independent regulators license a vaccine in this country, they will do so knowing that it is safe and everybody should follow that advice.” 

The PM urged countries to “pull together” and “share expertise” in the drive to find treatments, tests and vaccines during an online conference on Monday. 

The UK has pledged to give £388m in aid funding for research – part of a £744m commitment to help end the pandemic and support the global economy.

Asked by HuffPost UK about vaccines, Hancock did not rule out making them mandatory, but said people’s strict adherence to lockdown restrictions showed demand would be “enormous”.

 

 

He also stressed that watchdogs such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency would investigate whether it was safe for use in the general population.

He said: “On the question of whether make it compulsory, I think that the extent of the public’s reaction to following the lockdown shows we will be able to achieve very, very high levels of vaccination without taking that step.”

He added: “There is no coronavirus vaccine yet for any of the existing coronaviruses and this is uncertain science but whilst I don’t rule anything out, we are proceeding on the basis that just such a huge proportion of the population are going to take this up, because of the obvious benefits to individuals and their families and their communities and indeed the whole nation, that there will be an enormous demand for it as and when the science is safe to proceed.”

Deputy chief science officer Jonathan Van Tam, meanwhile said scientists “remain hopeful that there will be a breakthrough at some point in the future”. 

He added it was likely the vaccine would be licensed first for adults, given the elderly were at high risk of becoming gravely ill and the low impact on children.