Jonathan Van Tam uses 'mums test' to reassure Brits over vaccine

11 November 2020, 11:45 | Updated: 11 November 2020, 14:48

Speaking at a briefing in Downing Street giving details of the new vaccine, Prof Van Tam said there is "no shortcut to the future you and I aspire to"
Speaking at a briefing in Downing Street giving details of the new vaccine, Prof Van Tam said there is "no shortcut to the future you and I aspire to". Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Professor Jonathan Van Tam tried reassuring Brits about the safety of a coronavirus vaccine by saying he wants his mum to get the inoculation.

The deputy chief medical officer said the new Covid-19 vaccine is not a "get out clause" for the second wave of the pandemic.

Speaking at a briefing in Downing Street giving details of the new vaccine, Prof Van Tam said there is "no shortcut to the future you and I aspire to" in fighting the disease and getting back to normal life.

He added that it "would be wrong" to suggest life will be back to normal by Easter, but said: "I think I can tell you that I'm very hopeful that over time vaccines will make a very important difference to how we have to live Covid-19 in the long run."

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In a stark warning about the measures currently needed to beat back the second waves, he said: "Will these vaccines be a get-out clause for the current second wave we are in? Absolutely not,

"And we are going to have to push this second wave down by the non-pharmaceutical interventions; the social distancing, and stay at home.

"There's no shortcut to the future you and I aspire to".

On whether the vaccine would be safe, Prof Van Tam said he had encouraged his 78-year-old mother to be ready to take a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.

Asked whether high-profile Government figures such as himself or the Prime Minister should take a vaccine first to prove to the public it was safe, Prof Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing he would be "at the front of the queue" if he was allowed.

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He said he was a 56-year-old with one medium-to-high risk condition, so there were people with greater priority.

"If I could, rightly and morally, be at the very front of the queue, then I would do so, because I absolutely trust the judgment of the MHRA on safety and efficacy," he said.

"But that clearly isn't right, we have to target the most highest risk individuals in society and that is how it should be in terms of our system.

"If I could be at the front of the queue, then I would be.

"I think the 'mum test' is very important here. My mum is 78, she will be 79 shortly, and I have already said to her, 'mum, make sure when you are called you are ready, be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age'."

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was announced on Monday, leading to hopes that the huge swathes of Covid-19 infections could be curbed when it can be rolled out.

Read more: Vaccine breakthrough: Pfizer's Covid-19 drug '90% effective'

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he hopes the vaccine will be able to be rolled out in the NHS in December.

The Prime Minister said the UK stands to get 40 millions doses of the vaccine if it is approved for use in the coming weeks.

The vaccine would, at first, be able to cover at least one third of the UK population, with frontline health workers and the most vulnerable first in line.

"The Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation is looking at a range of different types of vaccine to work out the most effective ways to protect as many people as possible," Mr Johnson said.

Two doses of the vaccine would be required, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Jonathan Van-Tam added, and people would have to wait at least two weeks after the second injection for it to full effect.