It gives me deep and great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Dame Angela. I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) on securing the debate.
Many of us, when we come to put a speech together, think of different ways and processes to do it. Some use the rule of three, and I want to refer today to three words that I hope my hon. Friend the Minister and her colleagues in the Government take notice of: “Do no harm.”
Regardless of the Chief Medical Officer’s overruling of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), I would say that when it comes to our nation’s children and young people, the people in these roles should remember that their actions should “do no harm”. Our colleagues in the Government —whether newly appointed or not—should also be mindful, in respect of the electorate’s children, that they should “do no harm”.
The new Minister will be aware of the strength of feeling displayed to her predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), and the Government in the recent urgent question on covid passports. It is, again, a fallacy that the direction that the Government wish to take will protect our children, especially as 50% to 70% of them are likely already to have contracted and survived Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics. Are we really showing that we are “doing no harm”?
We are told that any vaccination programme would not negate potential future school closures, so what is the point? Where is the political backbone? Is the Government’s plan that any future upsurge in age 12-to-15 cases could be ascribed to an Epsilon or a Zeta variant, or perhaps an Eta or a Theta variant? Will anyone give an Iota of credence to such an occurrence after what we have seen with hospital transference to care homes and the subsequent surge in cases in our older generation, and with the recent vaccinations and the delta variant that has emerged?
We should be mindful as politicians on both sides of the House, and I note at this point that there are not even three Opposition representatives on the other side of the Chamber, although I do see that the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), is in her place. We need to “do no harm” for myriad, if not a veritable plethora of, reasons.
I turn now to the so-called Gillick principle. As no trials that have been made public are definitive, I fail to see how any child below 16 can be fully informed on the safety or otherwise of the vaccines? One would have to say that their teachers and head teachers cannot be fully informed either,
This is in particular in the light of the heart impacts on young males and the reported effects in more than 35,000 females of reproductive age reported in the UK national media this very last weekend. Can the chief medical officers and the JCVI, after their recent decision-making process, hold themselves to the maxim that they will “do no harm”?
Vaccine passports are not a first line of defence against a potential so-called winter wave of coronavirus, as Downing Street spokesmen are reported to have said. Our children of 12 to 15, like their older siblings and other under-25s who frequent nightclubs, bars and restaurants, are not to be used as a second line of defence either.
I urge the Minister and her colleagues in the Government to remember to “do no harm”. There is no medium or long-term study data. I admire Chris Whitty and his colleagues for many things that they have done in the past 18 months. However, citing educational disruption, or the fear of more of it, as a justification for child vaccination against JCVI advice seems a little desperate, as far as I am concerned.
We were told that all those at risk needed to be vaccinated. They have been. Many others have caught and survived Covid-19. What real justification is there now to vaccinate those under 40 at all, some would ask?
We have had millions of various vaccinations. How many of those under 40 without any underlying health issues have died or been hospitalised purely because of Covid-19? So why are our children still taking tests after a whole summer of not doing so, as has been referred to? Is it perhaps because there are thousands, if not millions, of the tests sitting in warehouses? What sort of reason is that for imposing this sort of regime on them?
Are we ensuring that we are “doing no harm”?
Are the zealots in the civil service, the NHS and Government going to stigmatise and demonise any parent who expresses concern about the vaccination of our young children? This through fear and perhaps even lies, about taking a vaccine that has had no long-term testing and does not stop someone getting the virus or passing it on?
“Do no harm” starts to have a very hollow ring.
If the Covid-19 risk for young people is much lower, while with vaccination there are heart risks for males—that is a real concern—and reproductive females are suffering side-effects, how does the Minister square that circle that we should “do no harm” to the young of the UK?
That next generation will be paying for this Government’s and the Minister’s decisions for many, many years and, I fear, perhaps in more ways than one.
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