UK coronavirus live: Jonathan Van-Tam leads government drive to persuade public vaccine is safe | Politics

Good morning. Following the announcement yesterday that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, the government now has to persuade the public to get it – or at least the 20% of people who have doubts. And it has decided to wheel out Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England who has become a surprise star of the No 10 coronavirus briefings and the government scientist with the best record at scoring goals in the communications contest (as he might put it himself). This morning it’s wall-to-wall JVT. He has just done a long Q&A on BBC Breakfast, he is doing the same thing now on BBC News and later he will be on ITV’s this morning.

Van-Tam told the BBC that the government had been preparing for the roll-out of a vaccine programme since March. He said:

We are the first to approve it because we’ve been really, really organised about this from the word go.

I started focusing behind the scenes on getting vaccines and vaccine preparedness back in March – actually quite a bit before the vaccine taskforce, which has been absolutely brilliant, was formed.

This began with conversations with Sir Patrick Vallance, the government chief scientific adviser, and from the word go we’ve been on the front foot, being clear that we needed vaccines as soon as was safely and assuredly possible.

And the MHRA, our regulator, has just been superb in this space and taken unprecedented steps to see data early, and that’s why we are where we are.

I will post more from his Q&A shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes its latest figures on the impact of coronavirus on the economy and society.

10.30am: Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, makes a statement to MPs about plans to help pupils in England sitting exams next summer, to compensate for the coronavirus disruption they’ve suffered.

11am: NHS test and trace publishes its latest weekly performance figures.

11.30am: The all-party parliamentary group on Covid publishes an interim report.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.20pm: Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.

2pm: Public Health England publishes its latest weekly Covid surveillance report.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

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