Government doesn’t want to make COVID vaccine mandatory, minister says

The UK government has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. (NurPhoto via Getty

Medical syringe is seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on November 16, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The UK government has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The government has said it does not expect to make a potential coronavirus vaccine mandatory.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that the UK will receive the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine candidate from the US by the end of the year.

It comes after the US pharmaceutical giant announced that its initial results show the vaccine to be more than 90% effective. The UK government has secured 40 million doses.

Jenrick said it is not the government’s “expectation” to make any jab a requirement.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear on the Andrew Marr show. Labour has demanded a top-level investigation into Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, over how Government funding was allocated to his Newark constituency.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick pictured on Sunday before his appearance on the Andrew Marr show. (Getty)

However, there are still suggestions the jab could be compulsory after health secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out the possibility.

Jenrick told the broadcaster: “We do need to win the argument and to persuade the public that the vaccine is safe.

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“We’ve seen with previous vaccines over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, that there’s sometimes misinformation, that misinformation is now predominately online and we’ve got to combat that, and persuade people that it’s safe to take the vaccine.”

Watch: Hancock admits there is ‘more to do’ on anti-vax media posts

“I think it’s really important that people do, and I will be doing everything I can to try to persuade people that I know, my family and friends, to take it when they have the opportunity.”

Jenrick added: “Let me be perfectly clear, we don’t have any plan to make the vaccine compulsory.”

The communities secretary also gave an update about when the first vaccines would arrive from the US.

He said: “The Pfizer programme, we’ve secured 40 million doses of, and we think we will take the receipt of the first 10 million or so of those before the end of the year.”

Jenrick added that the government had also pre-ordered five million doses of the Moderna jab, which also released preliminary results last week showing 95% effectiveness.

He said this vaccine is still in development and “has a lot of promise” but added that is will not be available to use before spring 2021.

The communities secretary said he did not want to give people “false hope” over a potential vaccine, due to the need for safety tests and the time required to produce them.

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He said the UK government plans to roll out the Pfizer vaccine in a “sensible and fair way”, giving it to key workers and vulnerable people first.

“But it does look as if over the course of the first half of next year, a very large proportion of the population will have access to the vaccine and that will make a huge difference in our ability to return to a degree of normality.”

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