A 40-year-old Conservative MP who received the coronavirus vaccine after spending an afternoon volunteering at a local hospital has said this happened because there were some left-over doses, which would have otherwise gone to waste.
Brendan Clarke-Smith, who became MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire at the 2019 election, received his first vaccination dose on Friday, after helping at Retford hospital.
In a Facebook post, Clarke-Smith wrote that he had spent the afternoon volunteering at the hospital.
He said: “As a volunteer I was also asked to have a vaccine. Many people have asked me about the safety of vaccines and I have always said that my family and I would all have no problem having one.”
He added: “Some have suggested that politicians should test them out first – although they are usually the same people who then say politicians get preferential treatment, so I suppose it’s difficult to win! I hope having the vaccine today will reassure people and that everybody who is offered a vaccine will take this up.”
According to a priority list drawn up by the official Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the first four groups to get the vaccine are older care home residents and carers; those over 80 and frontline health and social care workers; people over 75; those over 70 and people seen as very clinically vulnerable.
Asked whether he received the vaccine because his volunteer role put him in the category of frontline staff, or because there were spare vaccines left, Clarke-Smith MP told the Guardian it was the latter.
“I have just started volunteering at a local vaccination centre in my constituency,” he said in a statement.
“At the end of a day of volunteering there were some left-over vaccinations and rather than letting them go to waste they offered me a vaccination so I don’t put people at risk while continuing to volunteer.”
Asked about Clarke-Smith’s vaccination, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he was not aware of the circumstances of the case, adding: “We have set out who should receive the jab, and the JCVI set out the priorities in detail.”
He said that in general, spare vaccines should be given to the most vulnerable people: “We have asked for vaccine providers to have back-up lists of patients and staff in the top four cohort, so it’s ready to give them if there are any vaccines available at short notice. I would re-emphasise the point that we have prioritised these four groups for a reason, that they are the most vulnerable to the virus.”
However, one official said that there was an acceptance that this would not always work in practice, and that it was accepted that any doses which might not be usable the next day should be injected if possible: “If it’s the case that a hospital or a GP has a spare vaccine, it is obviously preferable that it’s used rather than throw it in the bin.”
Speaking earlier this month at a Downing Street press conference, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said it was right for people like GPs to “make sure that they eke every vaccine out that they can”.
Whitty said: “And there have been some perfectly sensible decisions made by individual GPs, particularly with Pfizer vaccine where there is an issue about shelf life once something’s been unfrozen, to make sure that actually it’s possible to maximise the number of people vaccinated.”