Madam Deputy Speaker, with permission, Id like to make a statement on coronavirus. Before I do that I would like to wish my shadow opposite a happy birthday today.
Our nation is getting safer every day, as more and more people get protected by the biggest immunisation programme in the history of our health service.
Over 10 million people have now received their first dose of one of our coronavirus vaccines. This is almost 1 in 5 adults in the UK.
Were vaccinating at scale, while at the same time retaining a close focus on the most vulnerable in our society to make sure those at a greater risk are at the forefront of the queue.
Im pleased to inform the House that weve now vaccinated almost 9 in 10 over 80s in the UK, almost 9 in 10 over 75s and over half of people in their 70s.
Weve also visited every eligible care home possible with older residents in England, and offered vaccinations to all their residents and staff.
This means were currently on track to meet our target of offering a vaccine to the 4 most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
This is an incredible effort that has drawn on the hard work of so many and I want to take this moment to thank every single person who has made it happen. The hundreds of thousands of volunteers up and down the country, our colleagues in the NHS and social care, the scientists, the GPs, the nurses, the manufacturers, local authorities, the armed forces, civil servants who work night and day to make this deployment work and anyone else who has played a part in this huge logistical endeavour.
It really is the best of the United Kingdom. At our time of national need, youve given us a big boost in our fight against this deadly virus, which remains a big threat to us all.
There are still over 32,000 COVID patients in hospital and the level of infection is still alarmingly high. So we must all stay vigilant and keep our resolve while we keep expanding our vaccination programme, so we can get more people protected even more quickly.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we have an ambitious plan to do this. Were boosting our supply of vaccines, and our portfolio now stands at over 400 million doses, some of which will be manufactured right here in the UK.
And were opening more vaccination sites too. Im pleased to inform the House that 39 new sites have opened their doors this week, along with 62 more pharmacy-led sites.
This includes a church in Worcester, Selhurst Park the home of Crystal Palace Football Club and a fire station in Basingstoke, supported by firefighters and support staff from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
One of the greatest pleasures for me over the past few months has been seeing the wide range of vaccination sites that have been set up, right in the heart of our local communities.
Cinemas, mosques, food courts and so many other institutions have now been transformed into life-saving facilities, giving hope to people every day. Thanks to this rapid expansion, we have now established a major national infrastructure.
There are now 89 large vaccination centres, and 194 sites run by high street pharmacies, along with 1,000 GP-led services and over 250 hospital hubs.
Todays announcement will mean that even more people will live close to a major vaccination site, so we can make vaccinating the most vulnerable even quicker and even simpler.
Madam Deputy Speaker, weve always believed in the power of science and ingenuity to get us through this crisis.And I was pleased to see earlier this week to see compelling findings in the Lancet medical journal, reinforcing the effectiveness of our Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
It showed that the vaccine provides sustained protection of 76% during the 12-week interval between the first and second dose and that the vaccine seems likely to reduce transmission to others by two-thirds
This is of course really great news for us all, but we will not rest on our laurels.
Madam Deputy Speaker, no one is really safe until the whole world is safe. Our scientific pioneers will keep innovating so we can help the whole world in our collective fight against this virus.
I saw how powerful this ingenuity could be when I was one of thousands of volunteers who took part in the Novavax clinical trial.
A trial that published very promising results a few days ago.
Today, Im pleased to announce another clinical trial, a world-first study that will help cement the UKs position as a global hub for vaccination research.
This trial will look at whether different vaccines can be safely used for 2-dose regime in the future to support a more flexible programme of immunisation.
I want to reinforce that this is a year-long study, and there are no current plans to change our existing vaccination programme, which will continue to use the same doses. But it will perform a vital role, helping the world understand whether different vaccines can be safely used.
Our scientists have played a pivotal part in our response to this deadly virus and once again they are leading the way, helping us to learn more about this virus and how we should respond.
Madam Deputy Speaker, its been heart-warming to see how excited so many people have been to get their vaccine and to see the work taking place in local communities to encourage people to come forward to get their jab.
Honourable members, of course, have an important role to play too. I was heartened to see colleagues from all sides of the House coming together to encourage take-up within minority ethnic communities through a joint video, which was posted on social media last week. Two videos I should add.
As the video rightly says: MPs dont agree all the time. But on taking the vaccination, we do.
I couldnt agree more, and Im grateful to every single Honourable member who has come forward to support this national effort.
We want to make it as easy as possible for colleagues to do so. This week, we published a new resource for Honourable members that provides more information on the vaccine rollout and what colleagues can do to increase the take-up of the vaccine in their constituency.
This is an extremely valuable resource and Id urge all Honourable members to take a look and think about what they can do within their constituencies.
Madam Deputy Speaker, our vaccination programme is our way out of this pandemic. But even though this programme is accelerating rapidly and, as the Chief Medical Officer said yesterday, we appear to be past the peak, this remains a deadly virus, and it will take time for the impact of vaccinations to be felt.
So, for now, we must all stand firm and keep following the steps that we know make a real big difference until science can make us safe.
I commend this statement to the House.