Matt Hancock has admitted that he is not sure how many Britons will need a Covid-19 vaccine before the restrictions can be lifted.
The health minister told MPs that “help is on the way” in the fight with the virus following the decision to approve a shot from Pfizer and BioNTech.
But he added that while the vaccine is known to protect you as an individual, it’s unclear what impact it has in reducing Covid-19 transmission.
It is hoped that the virus rate will decrease as more vulnerable people are vaccinated, paving the way for the removal of restrictions, Mr Hancock explained.
His comments came when he made a statement to the House of Commons to keep MPs informed of the vaccine’s progress.
In response to questions from Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth, Mr Hancock said: “He then asks when we can lift restrictions, and of course I understand not only why he but almost everyone in the country wants the answer. question – how many people do you need to vaccinate before you can lift the restrictions?
“The answer to that is that while we know that the vaccine protects you as an individual with 95% efficacy, we don’t know the impact of the vaccine on reducing transmission due to the problem of asymptomatic transmission – that our response is severely affected. to this virus and made it so difficult to deal with.
“That’s why we don’t know the answer to that question.
“What we’ll do is follow the same five indicators we discussed at length yesterday, which are the indicators of the spread of the disease – we’ll look at the cases, the hospitalizations and, of course, the number of people who die. with Covid.
“We sincerely hope that as we vaccinate more and more vulnerable people, we will see those rates drop and therefore we will be able to lift the restrictions. We will have to see how the vaccination program directly affects the epidemic and then, of course, act as soon as possible to lift the restrictions that we all want to see disappear. “
Labor Mr Ashworth previously praised the vaccine news, adding, “I wonder if we as a nation should get together one night and applaud our scientists too.”
Vaccination, he said, saves lives, adding, “If it helps, I will stand next to the Secretary of State, socially of course on any platform or in a TV studio, to show that we are cross-party in promoting vaccination. “
He also asked how many NHS employees were vaccinated in January, according to the health secretary.
Mr. Hancock said in his reply: “While today offers more certainty, it does not end all uncertainties – while we now have 800,000 (doses) that have passed the batch test, the total number that will be produced in this period. is not yet known because it all depends on a manufacturing process that is itself complicated. “
Dr. Philippa Whitford, spokeswoman for SNP Health, said: “As Chairman of the All-Party Group on Vaccination, I absolutely welcome the approval of the Pfizer vaccine and join (Mr. Ashworth’s) call for a public health campaign to stimulate absorption.
“Of course, it will take time for it to be widely available, so we all still have to stick to the rules and make sure we can test, detect, isolate and support everyone who carries the virus.”