In January the government was recruiting weirdos and misfits: Dominic Cummings calls for ‘weirdos and misfits’ for No 10 jobs
A few days ago it was “Sensible Celebrities”: NHS to enlist ‘sensible’ celebrities to persuade people to take coronavirus vaccine
Now it’s down to Matt Hancock to save the day (whatever can come next?):
Matt Hancock: I’ll take coronavirus vaccine on TV to combat antivaxers
Kat Lay, Health Editor | Emma Yeomans www.thetimes.co.uk
The health secretary has volunteered to be vaccinated live on television to prove that the coronavirus jab is safe.
Matt Hancock made his offer as YouGov polling found that a fifth of Britons were not confident at all or not very confident that the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was safe and antivaxers took aim at the newly approved drug.
Last night Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, told Britons that they needed to take the vaccination to get rid of restrictions. He said: “Everyone wants social distancing to come to an end, we’re fed up with it. Nobody wants to see the damage they do. But if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true, then you have to take the vaccine when it’s offered to you. Low uptake will almost certainly make restrictions last longer.”
Earlier, during a television appearance, it was suggested that Mr Hancock could lead the way with an injection broadcast to the nation.
Piers Morgan, the presenter of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said: “I’ll come to where you are any time next week if we can do this. Let’s do it together, live on air. It would be powerful, it would send the right message.”
Mr Hancock said: “Well, we’d have to get that approved because, of course, there is a prioritisation according to clinical need and, thankfully, as a healthy, middle-aged man, you’re not at the top of the prioritisation. But if we can get that approved and if people think that’s reasonable then I’m up for doing that because once the MHRA has approved a vaccine — they only do that if it is safe. And so, if that can help anybody else, persuade anybody else that they should take the vaccine then I think it’s worth it.”
A snap YouGov poll found that the public overwhelmingly supported the idea, with 66 per cent in favour against only 12 per cent who opposed it.
Allegra Stratton, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, suggested the prime minister might also be prepared to be vaccinated against coronavirus live on television — but only if it did not prevent someone more in need of a jab from receiving one. Ms Stratton told reporters: “We all know the character of the prime minister. I don’t think it would be something that he would rule out but what we also know is that he wouldn’t want to take a jab that should be for somebody who is extremely vulnerable and who should be getting it before him.”
In the Commons on Tuesday Sir Desmond Swayne, a former international development minister, said: “The way to persuade people to have a vaccine is to line up the entire government and its ministers and their loved ones and let them take it first, and then get all the luvvies, the icons of popular culture out on the airwaves singing its praises.”
The YouGov poll also found 27 per cent of Brits were very confident the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was safe and 43 per cent fairly confident. However, 11 per cent were not very confident, 9 per cent said they were not confident at all, and 44 per cent opposed making the vaccination compulsory in law.
By midday Thalidomide was trending on Twitter as antivax activists sought to discredit the newly approved vaccine. Among those arguing against its use was Gerard Batten, a former Ukip leader, who claimed it could cause infertility, something for which there is no evidence.
The claim appears to stem from a petition submitted to the European Medicines Agency by two doctors and campaigners against lockdown who have both previously claimed the pandemic either does not exist or is already over. Their claims about the vaccine were described as lacking in evidence, “hard to follow and tenuous” by Professor Danny Altmann, head of an immunology lab at Imperial College London.
Edward Jenner, left, gave the first vaccine to James Phipps, aged eight, on May 14, 1796 using matter from a smallpox sore on Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid. His paper was rejected by the Royal Society but within a few years he had won over enough doctors and by 1800 his smallpox vaccination was popular in Britain and spreading into Europe.
Louis Pasteur created a laboratory-developed vaccine for chicken cholera — in error. His assistant forgot to inject the chickens with fresh bacterial cultures before a holiday. When he returned a month later, he carried out the injections with the old culture, and the chickens survived fatal disease. Pasteur gave them fresh bacteria and they did not become ill.
The Salk polio virus vaccine was deemed successful a little over a year after a huge trial began. It was licensed in the US on the same day, and by 1960 polio rates across the country had dropped by 90 per cent.
One of Elvis Presley’s lesser-known live performances came in October 1956, when he received a polio shot on television. Rates of polio vaccination were slumping among teenagers, who were vulnerable to the disease, so celebrities were enlisted to get the message out.
Ali Maalin, a Somalian cook, became the last person to contract smallpox in the wild. He survived and became an advocate for vaccination. A British woman contracted it from a lab studying the disease a year later, but smallpox was declared eradicated globally in 1980.
After the HIV virus was isolated Ronald Reagan’s secretary of health announced that a vaccine would be found within two years. Decades later, however, no vaccine yet exists and numerous studies have failed. One trial was stopped after it appeared the vaccine raised people’s chances of contracting HIV.
Andrew Wakefield published a study, later discredited, claiming a link between the MMR — measles, mumps and rubella — vaccine and autism. The paper was retracted and he was subsequently banned from practising medicine but his claims have resulted in a significant reduction in vaccination rates.
The HPV vaccine was introduced for girls in the UK age 12 and 13. Boys started receiving the jab too last year. The World Health Organisation has said that cervical cancer, caused by the HPV virus, could be eliminated and Australia aims to wipe it out by 2035.
The WHO reported 140,000 deaths from measles with outbreaks across all regions of the world. Four European countries, including the UK, lost their measles-free status, with the drop in vaccination rates blamed.