Worcester MP, Robin Walker has celebrated the positive news that the UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for nationwide vaccination, as Worcestershire moves out of national restrictions into Tier 2.

The decision made by the UK Regulatory Authority (MHRA) was made with advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body, after carrying out a rigorous, scientific, and detailed review of all the available data.

The first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week and elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

With regular reviews of the tiered system, Robin is hopeful that the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be a significant step in making restrictions a thing of the past, however recognising the need to ensure that we reduce the impact on people’s lives and on the economy in the meantime by taking a careful approach.

The rate of infection in Worcestershire has been falling in recent weeks and Robin has spoken to Ministerial colleagues to make the point that Worcestershire’s rates are below the England average, which will give the area the best chance to get into a lower tier sooner. The roll-out of mass vaccination will help to provide a pathway for Worcestershire to move into Tier 1.

As well as the positive news of the approval of the vaccine, Robin is pleased that the Government has taken on-board some of the lessons of earlier approaches which needed to be reviewed, such as the 10pm curfew and the closure of gyms & pools and adjusted the tiers accordingly. He has consistently pressed for support to ensure that as many people as possible keep their jobs and livelihoods and Robin will continue to do so.

Speaking after the news of the vaccine approval, Robin said:

“I strongly welcome the news that the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been approved for roll out starting next week. It is a phenomenal step forward and a moment the UK should be extremely proud of. It is a testament to the UK’s scientific expertise and commitment to produce this vaccine.”

“I voted for the tiered system yesterday because I think it is the best-balanced approach to support lives and livelihoods for the time being and to prepare for the roll out of vaccines and mass testing which will hopefully take us out of this situation entirely.”

“Hospital admissions tend to trail the peak of infections by about two weeks so whilst it is welcome news that the number of covid-19 infections has been falling locally for the last couple of weeks, it is sadly the case that the number of people in hospital with covid-19 has remained high over this period and is now higher at 82 than it was one or two weeks ago. This has been a key factor for me in accepting that a position in tier 2 is justified for Worcester at this stage.”

“The Opposition’s approach of abstaining on the vote in the Chamber rather than proposing any alternative shows a complete lack of conviction and whilst I respect many of the colleagues who have decided to vote against the measures for one reason or another, I note none of them have proposed a viable alternative. Governments do not have the luxury of sitting on the side lines and commenting, they must take decisions and recognise that those decisions have consequences. I can assure you that I have thought through the consequences of mine.”

“As the Prime Minister rightly said this morning, it is the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get our economy moving again.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use. This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”

“The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) will shortly publish its final advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.”

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large-scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.”

“To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed.”

MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine said:

“We have carried out a rigorous scientific assessment of all the available evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness. The public’s safety has always been at the forefront of our minds – safety is our watchword.”

“I’m really pleased to say that the UK is now one step closer to providing a safe and effective vaccine to help in the fight against COVID-19 – a virus that has affected each and every one of us in some way – and in helping to save lives.”

“We are globally recognised for requiring high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine. Our expert scientists and clinicians worked tirelessly, around the clock, carefully, scientifically, robustly and rigorously poring over hundreds of pages and tables of data, methodically reviewing the data.”

“Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They save millions of lives worldwide.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information on the vaccine approval announcement, please see:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-authorises-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-medicines-regulator-gives-approval-for-first-uk-covid-19-vaccine

For guidance on Tier 2 restrictions please see:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-2-high-alert