Boris Johnson says vaccine progress will allow Brits to 'reclaim our lives' at PMQs

2 December 2020, 12:21 | Updated: 2 December 2020, 13:01

Boris Johnson was addressing MPs today at PMQs
Boris Johnson was addressing MPs today at PMQs. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told PMQs today that progress on vaccines will allow Britons to "reclaim our lives" and get the economy moving.

But he urged caution saying the public should "not get their hopes up too soon" about the speed of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

The Prime Minister told MPs that while the country was expecting "several million doses" of the jab by the end of the year, it would only be handed out to a small group of the most vulnerable to begin with.

Read more: Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine approved for UK use and will roll out next week

Read more: Matt Hancock hails approval of vaccine on LBC, saying 'help is on its way'

"We will then be rolling it out as fast as possibly can," he said, "but that's why I put so much emphasis on the continuing importance of the tiering system."

He told the Commons the progress on a vaccine is "very good news" but "it is not the end of our national struggle" against the virus.

He said: "I think it is very important at this stage for us all to recognise that this is unquestionably good news. It's very, very good news.

"It is by no means the end of the story, it is not the end of our national struggle against coronavirus and that is why it's very important that the package of moderate but tough measures that the House voted for last night, the tiering system, is followed across the country because that's how we will continue to beat the virus."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked the PM about the priority list for vaccinations amid speculation about who and where would get the first doses.

Read more: Tier restrictions in force: Millions of people in England wake up to new rules

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"I think at this stage it is very, very important that people do not get their hopes up too soon about the speed with which we will be able to roll out this vaccine," Mr Johnson replied.

"It is beginning, as my right honourable friend the Health Secretary has said, from next week. We are expecting several million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year.

"We will then be rolling it out as fast as we possibly can."

Officials said the vaccine will be made available "from next week" and hailed the news which makes the UK the first country in the world to have a clinically approved Covid-19 vaccine.

The jab has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups but needs to be stored at minus 70C.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

Explained: Who will get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine first in the UK?

Asking what the Government was planning to do to tackle disinformation and anti-vaxxers, the PM said: "We are, of course, working to tackle all kinds of disinformation across the internet and he's right to single out the anti-vaxxers and those who I think are totally wrong in their approach.

"He's right to encourage take-up of vaccines across the country and we'll be publishing a paper very shortly on online harms designed to tackle the very disinformation that he speaks of."

The event soon turned to the return of the three-tier system of local restrictions voted through the Commons on Tuesday night.

The PM hit out at Mr Starmer for ordering his MPs to abstain on the vote - which the Government won with a majority of 213.

"When it came to protecting the people of this country from coronavirus at this critical moment, he told his troops to abstain," he said.

Read more: Covid-19 crisis in numbers: LBC brings you the stats you need to know

The Labour leader hit back, saying: "When I abstain I come to the House and explain when the Prime Minister abstains he runs away to Afghanistan and gives the taxpayer a £20,000 bill."

Millions of people in England have now entered higher tiers than their area was in before national lockdown began at the beginning of November.