Keir Starmer has called for the government to bring forward a “practical plan” for rolling out the coronavirus vaccine “swiftly, safely and fairly” following the news that the UK has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab for use next week.
In a Sky News interview this evening, the Labour leader hailed reports that the UK government has secured the vaccine as “welcome news” but warned of the logistical challenges facing the country with the task of administering it.
Starmer said: “This is really welcome news and we owe a debt of gratitude to everybody who’s been involved in it. Obviously, what we now need from the government is a practical plan for rolling this out swiftly, safely and fairly.
“I think there’s a real problem with care homes and how we get the vaccine into care homes. Logistical problems because the vaccine has to be kept at such a low degree, so cold.
“But we’ve got to overcome that, we’ve got to pull together, because people in care homes have suffered enough already.”
British medicines regulator MHRA reported this morning that the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against the virus, is safe to be rolled out and the UK has secured 800,000 doses (enough for 400,000 people) to arrive in the coming days.
The government has identified cohorts of people with varying degrees of priority for the vaccine. Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by those over 80 and health and care staff.
The comments from the Labour leader follow the latest session of Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this afternoon, in which he quizzed Boris Johnson on the details of the roll out of the vaccine including problems raised in its application in care homes.
Starmer highlighted concers that were expressed this morning by the Welsh Labour government, which said that due to the extremely low temperature needed to store the vaccine it could not currently be distributed in care homes.
He also pressed the Prime Minister to bring forward legislation to combat anti-vax disinformation about the vaccine. Labour called last month for censorship laws to fight anti-vax conspiracy theories, particularly on social media platforms.