The Prime Minister hosted a virtual press briefing from his flat in Downing Street, where he is still self-isolating, alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and Oxford Vaccine Group director Professor Andrew Pollard.
The i politics newsletter cut through the noise
No compulsory vaccination
As news emerged of more successful vaccine trials – this time with the UK-based Oxford-AstraZeneca team which found its jab had proved 70 per cent effective – Mr Johnson said again he hoped the majority of the British public could be vaccinated by Easter.
Asked about a previously muted idea of so-called “freedom passes” – which would provide someone with proof they have been vaccinated – Mr Johnson said, however, that no one would be forced to accept a vaccine once it has been approved by regulators.
“There will be no compulsory vaccination,” Mr Johnson said. “That’s not the way we do things in this country. We think it would be a good idea and I totally reject the propaganda of the anti-vexes – they are wrong.
‘We are very pro-vaccine’
“Vulnerable people, people who need a vaccine should definitely get a vaccine and everybody should get a vaccine as soon as it is available according to the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
Mr Johnson added that the country should be “very very pro-vaccine”.
He explained plans to lift restrictions were more closely connected to more people being tested for Covid-19, so the virus can be tracked easier.
“What we are suggesting is there might be an interrelation between the tiering structure and the mass testing and there I think there is the potential to encourage people to get a test for the community and work together to squeeze the disease,” he said.
No guarantee it will reduce infection
Professors Whitty and Pollard reiterated there is no certainty that any of the possible vaccines would stop someone from being infectious and, therefore, spreading Covid-19. Very early data, however, has suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab may reduce the chances of someone being able to spread the virus.
Prof Whitty said no vaccine would be 100 per cent effective but said it would still “reduce the number of people who die if we get good take up”.
“There is the possibility that any of these vaccines […] may actually protect people around the person who is vaccinated because they may prevent the person becoming infected or passing it on, he said.
“If that’s the case then getting a vaccination not only protects you but it also protects your family, your friends, your work colleagues and those around you. But we cannot say that at this point until we have more data.
“But I would like also to reiterate a point the Prime Minister has made. It is absolutely the case that either way, my advice would be – any medical practitioners advice would be – these should be voluntary vaccinations and people should want to take them because they will protect them from a potentially very debilitating and, in some cases, sadly fatal disease.”
Prof Pollard said the early trials of the vaccine had thrown up a “hint in the data” that it also “reduce[d] the amount of asymptomatic infection and that may mean we can reduce those people who are spreaders and that starts to stop the virus in its tracks”.