Jonathan Van-Tam says Boris Johnson shouldn't be at front of COVID vaccine queue – 'It's about the mum test'

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read

Watch: Jonathan Van-Tam sets out COVID vaccine 'mum test'

  • Jonathan Van-Tam says COVID figureheads such as him and Boris Johnson shouldn’t be first to get vaccine

  • Reporter suggests giving them vaccine first could increase public confidence

  • Van-Tam rejects this, saying it ‘clearly isn’t right’, and sets out ‘mum test’ focusing on high-risk elderly people getting jab first

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

Jonathan Van-Tam has said Boris Johnson shouldn’t be at the front of the queue if a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

Prof Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, was asked if people like him and Johnson – senior figureheads of the government’s COVID-19 response – should be first to have the jab to give people confidence in its safety.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, Prof Van-Tam rejected this idea, saying it “clearly isn’t right”.

He said people should focus on the “mum test” and on getting high-risk elderly relatives vaccinated first.

Boris Johnson receiving a flu vaccine in October last year. One of his top coronavirus advisers has said the prime minister shouldn't be first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jeremy Selwyn/pool/AFP via Getty Images)      Picture Jeremy Selwyn  Evening Standard (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JEREMY SELWYN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson receiving a flu vaccine in October last year. One of his top advisers has said the PM shouldn't be first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jeremy Selwyn/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Prof Van-Tam said: “I’m a 56-year-old with one medium- to high-risk condition.

“If I could rightly and morally be at the very front of the queue, then I would do so.

“Because I absolutely trust the judgement of the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] on safety and efficacy.

“But that clearly isn’t right. We have to target the most highest-risk individuals in society, and that is how it should be.”

He went on: “I think the ‘mum test’ is very important here. My mum is 78, she’ll be 79 shortly.

“I’ve already said to her: ‘Mum, make sure when called, you’re ready. Be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age. Just be ready to called.’”

Read more: What happens if a COVID vaccine doesn’t actually work?

It comes after Monday’s announcement of a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, with early studies showing its jab is 90% effective.

The UK government had already ordered 40m doses of the vaccine, which would be administered twice per person.

Sitting next to Prof Van-Tam at the briefing, MHRA chief Dr June Raine said there was “absolutely no chance” the body will compromise on safety standards in order to rush out a vaccine.

She said work had begun on assessing the Pfizer vaccine, but that it had not yet received the full data.

Meanwhile, Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, said the current thinking is that priority will start with care home residents and workers, then older people going down age groups to the over-60s.

He said adults with underlying health conditions would then be prioritised before the over-50s during phase one of the programme.

“If phase one is completed then we will have protected hopefully over 99% of those individuals who are at risk of dying from COVID-19.”

Watch: Eight exceptions to England's second national lockdown

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