The UK Health Secretary has said he hopes everyone in the country would be immunised against coronavirus if the UK develops a vaccine.
Matt Hancock stopped short of confirming jab would be mandatory when asked at today’s Downing Street press conference, but he didn’t rule it out either.
A working vaccination is yet to be developed anywhere in the world, but scientists at Oxford University and Imperial College London are locked in a race to make one.
Speaking to reporters the Health Secretary said: ‘The question of whether it’s mandatory is not one that we’ve addressed yet.
We are still some time off a vaccine being available.
But I would hope, given the scale of this crisis, and given the overwhelming need for us to get through this and to get the country back on its feet, and the very positive impact that a vaccine would have, that everybody would have the vaccine.’
National coordinator of the UK’s testing effort Professor John Newton said mandatory vaccinations are an option, but that hopefully, it won’t come to that.
He added: ‘The most successful vaccine programmes tend to be via consent, so what really matters is a clear explanation of the benefits and any risks associated with the vaccine, and a really good system to make the vaccine available to anybody who needs it.
‘Although some countries have adopted mandatory programmes the most successful programmes tend to be on the basis of consent, good information and good delivery mechanisms.
But clearly mandation is there and can be used in some instances.’
The first way which everybody thinks of is as an epidemic modifying vaccine. You give it to the whole community rather like MMR and that protects everybody from getting these infections. But the other way you can use a vaccine is that you can use it as a disease-modifying vaccine.
‘You give the vaccine to those people who are most at risk.
You might do this because there isn’t enough vaccine so you want to protect the most vulnerable, or you might do it because it’s a partially effective vaccine that can stop people dying but is not enough to stop the transmission of the virus.
‘In that case you give it to a much smaller number of people.
Clearly, in that second group, you are absolutely doing it only to protect the person who is being vaccinated and if they choose not to have that protection it doesn’t affect anybody else and is simply their choice, but then they obviously are denying themselves the protection that this kind of vaccine could provide.’
A successful Covid-19 vaccine is yet to be developed anywhere in the world
Hancock said a coronavirus tests that can provide ‘on the spot’ results within 20 minutes is being trialled as of today.
He added that a surveillance study using a sample of antibody tests has suggested that 17% of people in London have Covid-19 fighting molecules in their system, compared to around 5% in the rest of the country.
The Health Secretary also urged people to seek help if they are struggling with their mental health during the lockdown.
Hancock said the ‘change and the uncertainty generated by this awful virus’ had been difficult for many people.
He also told health and care workers that it is important they take care of themselves, not just others, and urged all who need support to text ‘Frontline’ to 85258.