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Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi on vaccine combination trials and hotel quarantine delays

Vaccines Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawai appeared on Good Morning Britain where he discussed the vaccine combination trials.

"It won’t impact our deployment programme. If you had a Pfizer vaccine, you will get your second dose within twelve weeks of Pfizer, if you had Oxford Astra Zeneca, you will get your Oxford vaccine within twelve weeks. This is to look at how we can be even more efficient for the UK  but also for the rest of the world because the one thing to remember is that we will not be safe...we still have to make sure the rest of the world is also vaccinated," he told Ben Shephard and Susanna Reid.

On the data that hasn’t been published on the Pfizer vaccines effectiveness with a longer window between doses, he said: "So our regulator the MHRA and of course the joint committee on vaccination and the dep chief med officer Jonathan Van-Tam and the Chief Med Officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have looked at all the data, including data from the manufacturers that aren’t in the public domain, and they are absolutely certain that this is the right dosing strategy… What Pfizer have said is that it is up to the regulatory authority in each nation to make this decision and our regulatory authority has looked in detail on this… and I think it is the right thing to follow the expert advice of all those great scientists and experts who know what they are doing to say the up to twelve-week window is the right one.”

On Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that Scotland measure vaccine take-up and not just those who are offered it, Zahawi responded to suggestions that England’s figures might be flawed.

"So what we are doing to hit our mid-February target, already we know from the data that 90% of over-80s in England have had the vaccine, 90% of over-75s and about 50% of over-70s. This week we are now going through with GPs...going through their population and looking at exactly who has been vaccinated, who has been offered the vaccine and what is remaining… the good news is that uptake in those first four categories is incredibly high."

"There are areas of work, you look at residential care home for the elderly, the staff have been really good in terms of coming forward to be vaccinated when GPs have gone into those care homes and we have done over 10,000 to meet that target but we are also offering them vaccines at hospital hubs and their GPs to make sure we raise that number as well and of course communicating to those hard to read communities, the BAME communities," he added.

He continued: “We should be proud of that the ONS, the Office of National Statistics,  has said the UK has the highest acceptance in the world as a nation, 85 percent of people say they will very likely take the vaccine...the 15% skews very heavily towards BAME communities and I do worry about that which is why I am spending a lot of time and resources and effort, as is the NHS, to make sure we target those communities."

On hotel quarantine delays, he said: "Next week the Secretary of State for health will be setting out the operational elements of this policy...it is one part of a much bigger border policy."

Asked if he is frustrated that there has been a delay with it, he said, "Well no, it is one part of a greater piece...next week you will have the operational plan for how we are implementing the hotel quarantine.”

On whether the government will put a statue for Captain Sir Tom Moore, he said:  “What Captain Tom represents in the best of the United Kingdom...he became a beacon of light in these grim dark days of this pandemic so I am absolutely in favour of making sure we recognised that. A great big statue would be a wonderful way, not just for this generation to remember Captain Tom, but for future generations and as Chris Witty said, some of the younger people to aspire to be like Captain Tim would be a great thing for us to remember. I would certainly back a statue for Captain Tom.”

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