People who refuse the coronavirus vaccine should not feature in the government’s calculations about lifting restrictions, according to the leader of a group of Conservative MPs who are campaigning for an early end to the lockdown in England.
Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery group of backbench Tories, told the BBC’s Newscast podcast that the rest of the population should not be held back by those who choose not to get a jab.
“You can’t say ‘I’m not going to take the vaccine, but I need everybody else to change their lives to protect me,'” he said.
“I’m afraid that risk you run – it’s on you. It’s not on everybody else.”
He said take-up of the vaccine had been high so far and the injections should not be mandatory.
The former Home Office minister made the comments after the government confirmed earlier this week that two million people in the priority groups for vaccination in England had not come forward or had not been reached.
The number of people unprotected had to be taken into account when planning policies, according to Professor Adam Finn, who advises the government as a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation.
“Moves towards lifting restrictions will depend on levels of population immunity to the variants of the virus circulating at the time,” he said.
“This will be influenced by multiple factors including the proportion of people who have received vaccine and the duration of protection following vaccination or infection.
“It’s a complex evaluation and we are all in this together.”
About 70 Conservative MPs belong to Mr Harper’s Covid Recovery group, which is enough to defeat the government on a vote in Parliament if the opposition also opposes the motion.
He called for all coronavirus-related legal restrictions on activities to be repealed and replaced with non-binding advice once the most vulnerable groups in the population had been vaccinated, which the government aims to do by the end of April.
“At that point, I don’t think you can justify legal restrictions at all,” he told Newscast.
The Coronavirus Recovery Group will seek to influence ministers next week, as they study data on the impact of the vaccination programme on transmission of the virus around the country. ahead of the prime minister’ announcement of plans to gradually lift lockdown.