I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Unlike any other vaccine, the covid vaccine was given to people who had natural immunity because they had provably contracted the virus. Why were those people vaccinated?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The best vaccine against covid is covid, and many people were naturally immune. There are questions to be asked about the effects of vaccination on the immune system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington made an understandable point about the importance of resisting misinformation. As I mentioned, there are certainly many crazy theories out there to which we need not give credence. If we are talking about a programme of vaccinating the population, it is important that the public are persuaded to do what the Government want them to do, so I understand why the Government should have a public health information campaign. However, it is an essential principle of medical ethics that people must be able to give informed consent before any treatment, and I worry about whether we can say that consent was fully informed in all cases.
Throughout, there has been misinformation in favour of the vaccine. I would not say that was deliberate; it was possibly accidental. We can tell that with hindsight. Perhaps the most egregious example was the claim that the vaccine is 95% effective; as was mentioned earlier, Dr Malhotra presented on this to the APPG last week. That figure refers simply to the relative risk, instead of the actual or absolute reduction in risk to an individual. The absolute risk reduction is really less than 1%.
There was also the widespread claim that the vaccine stops transmission, so people should take the jab to protect other people. We were all told that; we all believed that for many months. Last month, we heard from Pfizer that its vaccine was never tested to see whether it would stop transmission. Despite that, we had the notorious claim by Professor Chris Whitty that even though the vaccine brought no benefit to children, children should be vaccinated to protect wider society. I am all for thinking about society, not the individual, but that, again, feels like a profound break with medical ethics. A lot of people are asking what the vaccine does to children and young people, and Professor Whitty is right that the benefit to healthy children seems to be essentially nil.
There are genuine questions to be asked. I have not verified these questions; I merely ask them on behalf of my constituents. How do we explain the increase in the rates of myocarditis, heart attacks and excess deaths among young people? Indeed, across the general population, it is plausible, though not definitive, that the vaccine is responsible for more harms than we know about. As I said in my intervention, we know from the yellow card scheme that up to one in 200 hundred people vaccinated report an adverse reaction. That is bad enough in itself, but we also know that adverse effects are significantly under-reported through the yellow card scheme. Based on the MHRA’s research, there may be as many as 10 times more serious adverse reactions than the yellow card system shows.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important for the Minister to explain how people who say they have experienced damage from the vaccine can ensure that they are heard? There is the yellow card scheme, the module in the public inquiry, and people can apply for vaccine damage compensation, but there need to be more meaningful ways through which people can be engaged with on their experiences of damage.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady—I absolutely agree. This is a very important moment in which the Minister can hear from Members speaking on behalf of their constituents. I encourage far greater engagement with citizens who have suffered from vaccine damage, or even lost loved ones to it.
There may be innocent explanations for the rather terrifying facts I have mentioned; I very much hope there are. If these are conspiracy theories, we need them to be comprehensively and courteously debunked.
To close, I have four questions for the Minister. First, will she review the vaccination of children? Children have strong naturally acquired immunity, and the chance of death from covid for a healthy child is one in 2 million. I believe we should follow other countries, such as Denmark, and stop vaccinating children altogether. I invite the Minister to review that aspect of the policy.
Secondly, will the Minister make representations in Government, and to Baroness Hallett, on broadening the terms of reference for her inquiry, so that they explicitly include the efficacy and safety of the vaccines? I hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington says, and he is absolutely right: the inquiry terms of reference include mention of the vaccination programme and its effects. He may well be right that that is sufficient, and that the review will properly consider the topics that we are discussing. I hope so, but that needs to be made more explicit; I invite the Minister to comment on that.
Sir Christopher Chope
I wrote to Baroness Hallett, asking her to ensure that the terms of reference specifically covered the safety and impact of vaccines. As a result of representations, not just from me but from others, the terms of reference were amended to make it quite clear that vaccines, their impact and the potential damage done by them are included.
I am grateful for that clarification. It causes me concern to hear that it took my hon. Friend’s representations to ensure that the inquiry will consider the effect of the vaccines. We need to go further and talk about efficacy and safety, not just impact. We need to be explicit about what questions we want answers to. These issues need to be covered directly. We need the public inquiry to consider these matters, because of the compromised nature of medical regulation in our country. I mentioned that the MHRA is funded by the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs and vaccines that it regulates. There might be some universe in which that makes sense, but this is not it. I do not think that is right.
Thirdly, we need to do a lot more for the injured and bereaved, as the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Apsana Begum) said. I agree with all the recommendations of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, and we will hear from him shortly on what needs to be done to raise the threshold for compensation for the injured, and the speed of payouts. I agree with him that we need clinics for people with adverse reactions, just as we do for people with long covid.
Finally, we need to change the power imbalance. I am sorry, on behalf of Parliament, that this is the first proper debate that we have had on this subject. I regret that victims and families have had to struggle so hard to get engagement of the system. I hope that the Minister Toggle showing location ofColumn 10WHagrees to meet some of the people here, and other representatives of families affected by the vaccines, for a proper exchange of information and ideas, and I hope that she will request that Dame June Raine of the MHRA meets them, rather than ignoring letters for months.
A new Government take over this week. I hope that the Minister, who was appointed only recently, will stay in post, and that we can start a new chapter in the story of covid. No more remote power telling people what to do. Let us put truth and justice back into public life, and restore trust in the experts on whom we rely.
Covid-19 Vaccines: Safety, Volume 721: debated on Monday 24 October 2022.
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