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Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi reveals his uncle recently died from Covid before he could get the vaccine

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has revealed that his uncle recently died from Covid.

Talking about the UK’s high death toll with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, Mr Zahawi said: "It is painful and it is closer to home than you think Piers in terms of losing relatives and family. I lost my uncle last week to Covid, but you are right, it is grim and horrible but our way out of this is the vaccination programme. It makes me angry but it makes me determined to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in our country. Protect them as quickly as possible and then protect the whole nation. That is our way out of this, that is ultimately what we will do and I promise you, I will make sure that happens."

Discussing his uncle’s passing in more detail, he said: "He was entitled to [a vaccine] but sadly he got Covid before he got the vaccine. Obviously, you have to wait 21 days before someone recovers before you can vaccinate them and he didn’t make it."

Addressing concerning reports that the European Union may be pressuring Pfizer to reduce supply, he said: "I am confident that our deliveries from Pfizer will continue, Albert Bourla, the head of that company, has done a tremendous job throughout this Covid pandemic vaccine journey, he has been absolutely focussed on equitable supply, they are reconfiguring their European operation to go to 2 billion doses from 1.2 billion so I am confident they will be able to supply the European Union and the United Kingdom."

On the report claiming that the efficacy of the AstraZeneca is only 8% by the over 65s, he said: "I absolutely can reassure the over 65s in this country that that is not the case. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation… have looked at all the data that AstraZeneca Oxford have supplied. I spoke actually to the Chief Executive of AstraZeneca last night… we don’t know where this unsubstantiated report comes from. It is not true. This 8% figure is complete nonsense, so I would absolutely rely on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation of the United Kingdom and one of the best regulators in the world, the MHRA, in terms of efficacy.”

Asked what the efficacy rate for over 65s of the AstraZeneca vaccine is, he answered: “It produces very similar to the under 65s but also high levels of T cells as well, which means the AstraZeneca vaccine not only offers high levels of protection three weeks after the first dose and beyond that, but also very high levels, almost 100 percent protection from severe infection from the virus so it is an excellent vaccine, clearly one that the EU also wants to get sufficient supplies for, hence some of these headlines…”

Discussing the British Medical Association’s concern that there is insufficient data to show the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccines with a 12-week gap between doses, he said: “The Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty and his deputy Jonathan Van-Tam have written to them very clearly addressing their concerns...If you look at the data from Pfizer BioNTech and you take it from the first moment you get the jab all the way out to 21 days then yes, efficacy is about 50% but of course your body begins to build up the antibodies. If you go from day 14  to day 21, you are at 89% protection after that first dose.”

He also said that there is “data that is not in the public domain from Pfizer BioNTech that they are not publishing that make them feel very confident that the up to 12 week gap in dosage actually does work and does deliver that boost that continues to give you that additional protection when you get your second jab.”

After being shown a clip of a concert in New Zealand where crowds gathered without masks, Zawahi was asked if it would have been better, with hindsight, if our borders had been closed back in March.

“Well, look we are good at this, we will have an inquiry and look at all the decisions… you are right to say we have got to look at all those decisions.”

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