May I begin by acknowledging the difficulty of the task faced by Health Ministers and the Prime Minister in this crisis? We have a proportion of the public who want a full lockdown, irrespective of the consequences to the economy, and we have another proportion of the population who want no lockdown whatever, irrespective of the consequences to public health. However, even those who reluctantly accept the need for further restrictions must be mindful of the balance between the authority of Government and the responsibility of citizens, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) that we need to have sufficient parliamentary oversight during the period for which these restrictions are in place. I hope to hear from the Minister a Government commitment to more debate and regular votes during this period so that Parliament can express its view on behalf of the public.
I would like to say a few words about the vaccine programme. First, I congratulate the Government on having a world-leading immunisation programme, with two very difficult elements that have to be kept in balance—the supply of the vaccine and an adequate number of vaccinators. Of course, those two elements of the logistics have to go hand in hand and at the same speed—not an easy task for Ministers.
We will have to have a surge capacity in vaccinators to be able to deal with demographic and regional differences across the country and to avoid rate-limiting steps in the process. I made a point to the Prime Minister this morning about how difficult it has been for former GPs such as myself to get back into the vaccinating process and about the number of courses we have been asked to complete. I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State announce this afternoon that there will be some changes to that, and I think that is the fastest action I have ever known from a Government in 28 years—raise the issue with the Prime Minister in the morning, and get an answer from the Secretary of State in the afternoon. Incidentally, I think there is an easy fix to this problem. We can get those who want to come into the programme to fulfil two of the better modules—Core Knowledge for COVID-19 Vaccinators and Minimum Requirements for Staff Returning to the NHS.
However, we will also require more scrutiny of the vaccine process itself if we are to be confident in endorsing the public health policy that we have. We need to look better at the modelling and the data that is out there about the effectiveness of a single dose in creating sufficient population immunity, if that is to take place rather than the two doses, and we need to look at an assessment of the Pfizer vaccine in producing continued immune response in the three weeks after the first dose, as was originally envisaged, and in the extended extend 12-week period. It is essential that we know that these things are based on proper scientific data. The key to the success of the strategy will be our ability to understand the data and to unlock the lockdown and get back to normal.
This has been a very difficult time for everyone. We must at least learn the lessons for the future, because the pandemic will not be a once-in-a-generation event.