PUTTING a Union flag on the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine would show the UK Government’s “sheer desperation”, according to a top SNP MP.
Philippa Whitford, the party’s health spokesperson and a former breast surgeon, issued a warning after HuffPost reported that Downing Street’s shadowy Union Unit wanted the vaccination kit to be branded with the Union flag.
Reports today indicated that about 27% of people in the UK are unsure about getting vaccinated for Covid when jabs are approved. Whitford, also the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaccines for All, said it’s “natural for people to have questions”, and the key is to be open about the development process.
It comes amid news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will need some additional work after it emerged that different doses had been used in the trial in error, leading to questions around efficacy levels.
“The key thing from a Government point of view, or a medical point of view, is just honesty. Absolute, straight-forward honesty so you have trust,” Whitford said.
The MP used the example that if parents have access to a GP, health visitor, or someone they trust to answer questions on vaccinating their children, there is better uptake.
“Getting your questions answered by someone you trust is important. That’s why I feel anything like this with a Union flag or ‘made in Britain’, world-beating, literally Boris Johnson trying to live in a reflected glory of the Oxford team – that makes people distrust it,” Whitford explained. “Why are they doing that?”
“We will use a mix of vaccines, inevitably, one of them hopefully will be the Oxford one when they finish the additional work but there will also be these other types. We’re not saying that we’re only going to use a British-made vaccine, that would be ridiculous. You’ve got to be transparent, you’ve got to be open about set-backs, you’ve got to be open about the limitations.
“Frankly my key fear is if Boris Johnson calls the vaccine ‘world-beating’ – we are in real trouble, because every time he uses that phrase it’s a disaster.”
Whitford described plans to use Union flag branding on vaccine vials as “childish” and “puerile”.
She went on: “If anyone is thinks that is going to make people in Scotland have a different view of their future – really, they need to take a long look at themselves in the mirror. If that’s all they can come up with, if they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel to that extent, they’re in real trouble.
“I don’t think it will achieve anything for this Union Unit, but the fact that they try in that way – I think that’s not the approach to be taking with vaccines. Everybody needs to be able to speak up and speak out honestly to support these, they shouldn’t become some kind of political football.”
Despite the Union Unit’s “proposals” reportedly winning support from the Health and Business Secretaries, a UK Government spokesperson later said there were no plans to brand the doses at present.
Whitford told The National: “I don’t think it’s going to happen from the sounds of things, but should it do? My advice to people in Scotland would be please do not get caught up in that. I don’t care what symbol is on the label. I care what’s in the vial.”