Brits need to 'get used to idea' of revaccinating every autumn, PM says

10 February 2021, 13:04 | Updated: 10 February 2021, 13:34

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

People will need "to get used to the idea of vaccinating and revaccinating in the autumn" to fight new coronavirus variants, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson gave his strongest indication yet that Brits face the prospect of repeated rounds of Covid jabs while being grilled during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

The UK leader was asked by Conservative MP Julian Smith about how the UK will continue to ensure its vaccine supply chain continues its "success" when future strains emerge.

Mr Johnson said the reason the government secured 50 million doses of the CureVac was because "we believe that that may help us to develop vaccines that can respond at scale to new variants of the virus".

He added: "As the House will have heard from the chief medical officer, the deputy chief medical officer and others, we're going to have to get used to the idea of vaccinating and then revaccinating in the autumn as we come to face these new variants."

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While Sir Keir Starmer branded the country's vaccination rollout as a "truly amazing achievement", the Labour leader was keen to press the prime minister on whether business rate relief will be extended beyond March.

He asked: "Can the PM confirm today that the government will extend business rate relief beyond 31 March?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I'm glad to hear him joining the praise of the vaccine rollout, which is indeed I think a tribute to the NHS staff and the army and the volunteers and many, many others.

"And on his point about the extension of business rate relief, he knows that this government is committed to supporting businesses and people and livelihoods throughout this pandemic, that is what we will continue to do.

"But he should wait until the budget for the chancellor to explain exactly what we are going to do."

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Boris Johnson was facing a grilling during Prime Minister's Questions
Boris Johnson was facing a grilling during Prime Minister's Questions. Picture: PA

Sir Keir responded: "The trouble is that businesses don't work as slowly as the prime minister, they need an answer now."

He added: "Can the prime minister confirm that the furlough scheme will be extended beyond April?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I think most people in this country are aware that we are going through a very serious pandemic in which rates of infection have been steadily brought down thanks to the efforts of the British people.

"I think also, members of this House are familiar with the notion that in just a few days we will be setting out a road map for the way out of this pandemic, a road map that I hope (Sir Keir) and his colleagues will support."

The Labour leader then claimed Mr Johnson thinks "he knows better than British business".

"The CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce have all said the same thing. They all say they can't wait until the Budget," he said.

"The prime minister may disagree with me but he's actually disagreeing with businesses. Why does the PM think he knows better than British business?"

The UK leader replied: "Most business people that I have talked to, and I've talked to a great many in the last 12 months, would agree that there is no government around the world that has done more to support business, wrapping our arms around business.

"And actually, I'm delighted to hear this enthusiasm for business from the Labour Party when they stood on a manifesto to destroy capitalism at the last election."

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