JVT and the Queen have helped to inspire ‘sky high’ vaccine take-up – Hancock

Famous faces including the Queen and England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam have helped to encourage “sky high” vaccine confidence in the UK, Matt Hancock has said.

Meanwhile, the public have had confidence in the vaccine programme because people have not been able to “pay their way to the front of the queue”, he said.

The Health Secretary said that nine in 10 adults have said they will get, or have had, their Covid-19 jab.

The comments come as the nation has reached the milestone of giving three-quarters of all adults their first Covid-19 jab. Almost half have had their second.

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Mr Hancock told the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit: “Across the UK confidence in the vaccine programme has been sky high.”

The nation has harnessed influential voices from “across the board” to encourage vaccine take-up, he added.

“Figures from cricket to comedy to cookery, and things like the NHS campaign that resulted in a sharp uptake in vaccine take-up, including around a 20% increase in Asian communities,” Mr Hancock said.

“We use trusted voices in a cheerful, positive way, from Her Majesty the Queen to Sir David Attenborough, they publicly made it known that they’d got the jab and they played their part in normalising the acceptance of the vaccine.”

He added: “Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, our deputy chief medical officer, who’s lead on the vaccine project, has become a household name, with people people getting T-shirts and mugs with his face on.

“Because people admire his straight-talking approach, and that I think has helped to build confidence.”

The Health Secretary said the order of priority was important, not just clinically for saving lives, but for encouraging vaccine uptake.

He said it was important for people to know that others could not “buy their way up the queue”.

“In fact, you can’t buy your way into the queue at all,” he said.

“Not far from where you’re sitting (at the Science Museum in London), was where I got in the queue to get my jab a month ago, and Prince William, our future king, waited in that same line for his jab a couple of weeks after me – no special treatment, no queue-jumping.”

Speaking at the Jenner Institute in Oxford later on Wednesday, Mr Hancock said Britons “love queuing” and there was “nothing more upsetting than people jumping the queue”.

“We acted early to reassure people that in the finest tradition of the values of the NHS, vaccines will be given according to need, not ability to pay – whether you’re the Prime Minister, or Premier League footballer or the future king of England. You have to wait your turn, just like everyone else.”

He added: “I know that a few eyebrows were raised when I said that the film Contagion shaped my thinking about our vaccine programme – I should reassure Sir John Bell that it wasn’t my primary source of advice – but when I watched that film, a penny did drop for me: not just that the vaccine would be our way out of the pandemic, but that the power of the vaccine would be so great that we would have to think very hard about who to protect and in what order.”

Mr Hancock said ministers attending the G7 health summit will discuss how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic worldwide and will also address the “worldwide pandemic of misinformation”.

Global health ministers also plan to launch a global vaccination confidence campaign.