Government not planning inquiry solely into vaccine safety – health minister

The Government is not planning to open an inquiry solely into Covid vaccine safety, a minister has said.

Health minister Caroline Johnson said the vaccines will be reviewed as part of the wider UK Covid-19 inquiry, but insisted the jabs are safe and encouraged those eligible to come forward for autumn boosters.

Dr Johnson was speaking during a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, held in response to a petition calling for a public inquiry into Covid-19 vaccine safety, which has been signed more than 107,000 times.

A few MPs raised concerns during the debate about the vaccines’ possible side effects, including what some described as data showing a correlation with increased levels of cardiovascular problems.

The NHS website says “reports of serious side effects are very rare” and that “the Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness”.

SNP MP Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) said the Covid vaccine programme saved “millions of lives”, and saved almost 28,000 lives in Scotland.

But he added: “Despite this, there has been a significant increase in heart attacks and other related illnesses since the Covid-19 vaccinations started to be distributed in 2021.

“To determine if there is any potential connection with the Covid-19 (vaccine) rollout, I believe this Government must conduct an immediate and complete scientific investigation and ensure that the prescribed medical interventions of its response to coronavirus are indeed safe.”

But Mr Bonnar also said he would take his booster when called, and said people can “safely receive” their flu and Covid jabs at the same time as part of the autumn booster plan, saying they have been shown to be effective and “acceptably safe”.

Conservative former minister Sir Christopher Chope said: “I agree with the legitimate concerns of the 100,000 plus people who signed this petition and I share their belief that the recent and increasing volume of data relating to cardiovascular problems is enough of concern to warrant an inquiry into safety.”

Sir Christopher chairs the Covid-19 Vaccine Damage All-Party Parliamentary Group, which has five members, four Conservative and one Labour.

He acknowledged the wider Covid inquiry “is going to cover, I think, a lot of this ground”, but said: “That won’t be for many years.

“And in the meantime people are being encouraged to have more and more boosters, and they want to know, understandably, what the impact of those boosters is upon their health and what the potential risks and rewards are.”

“The Government seems to be in denial about the risks of these vaccines,” the MP for Christchurch said, saying the booster vaccines “are not perfectly safe, and there’s a question about whether they are effective”.

He warned the vaccine damage payment scheme is “not fit for purpose”, and said: “Many people now would not touch a booster with a barge pole, and I include myself amongst those.

“I am not anti-vax, I had my first two vaccines, but from all that I’ve seen and know about this, I think that the increase in boosters is now, for many people, counterproductive, and for some people it’s also dangerous.”

Conservative Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) led the debate, but said: “I do not think that the Government should be launching a public inquiry into vaccine safety. I think it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and I do not think it is necessary.”

“We know that vaccines are the best way to protect against Covid-19 and it has already saved tens of thousands of lives,” he added.

Dr Johnson, a health minister, said: “The Government has already commissioned a public inquiry into the pandemic, and Covid vaccines will be reviewed as part of this inquiry. There are no plans for an inquiry solely on vaccine safety.

“We are facing a tough winter ahead, and collectively we must do everything we can to protect those most vulnerable and to reduce pressure on the National Health Service.

“I would encourage everyone eligible to step forward for their Covid and flu vaccines as soon as they are available.”

She said: “There is no evidence that people are at an increased risk of cardiac arrest in the days and weeks following the vaccine, and the risk of getting myocarditis or pericarditis after the vaccine remains very low.”

“Catching Covid-19 can significantly increase your risk of cardiac arrest and death, and the risk of developing myocarditis,” she added.

She also referenced a study in Denmark which involved four million people and found there were no deaths or diagnoses of heart failure in people who were diagnosed with myocarditis or pericarditis after being vaccinated.

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