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Tory MP urged to apologise and correct record on ‘dangerous’ Covid vaccine claim

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen (Beresford Hodge/PA)
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen (Beresford Hodge/PA)

A Conservative MP has been urged to apologise and correct the record after claiming mRNA Covid vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.

This week the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech using mRNA technology, for children aged six months to four years.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Andrew Bridgen called on Rishi Sunak to overturn the decision by the “big-pharma funded” MHRA, given mRNA vaccines, which he described as “experimental”, are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Shortly after PMQs, Full Fact, an independent fact-checking charity, said Mr Bridgen’s claims on pregnant women and those who breastfeed were incorrect and Labour and the Lib Dems urged him to correct the record and apologise for peddling “dangerous” claims.

Mr Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “Given that mRNA vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, would my right honourable friend overturn the big pharma-funded MHRA’s recent recommendation that these experimental vaccines are administered to children as young as six months of age?”

Mr Sunak told MPs he believes “Covid vaccines are indeed safe and effective”, but added: “No vaccine, Covid or otherwise, will be approved unless it meets the UK regulator standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“We have an independent body that JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) determines which age groups the vaccine is recommended for use in, and as part of the vaccination programme. And, of course, the ultimate decision will lie with parents.”

Vaccine
The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been authorised for use in infants and children aged six months to four years (Danny Lawson/PA)

Whether the vaccine is eventually administered to infants and children under four depends on a recommendation from the JCVI, which advises the health department on which vaccines should be rolled out as part of the national vaccination programme.

Full Fact said: “The NHS still recommends that you get vaccinated against Covid-19 if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.”

The charity added: “It is true that the advice on Covid-19 vaccines and pregnancy has changed over time, but this doesn’t mean they were contradictory.”

Full Fact said the MHRA approved the Pfizer vaccine for UK use in December 2020, but not for pregnant women, and then, in April 2021, the JCVI advised that pregnant women should also be offered the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time their age group was.

The charity said this followed the publication of real-world data from the US showing 90,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated without any safety concerns being raised.

The NHS website states: “It’s strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against coronavirus (Covid-19) if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.”

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne told the PA news agency “this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen anti-vaccine misinformation parroted by Tory backbenchers”.

He added: “Anyone using their platform as an elected representative to spread these kind of baseless conspiracy theories should be ashamed of themselves.

“Vaccine hesitancy costs lives. Covid vaccines are safe and effective, and politicians should be doing everything they can to encourage uptake.

“Mr Bridgen needs to apologise and correct the record. Rishi Sunak should get a grip of the conspiracy theorists in the Conservative Party.”

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper also said: “There is no reliable evidence for Andrew Bridgen’s damaging claims, he should appear in the House of Commons and make a correction immediately.

“This is dangerous misinformation that should not be spouted by a member of Parliament.

“The Conservative Party must ensure he stops peddling this dangerous misinformation in the House of Commons and publicly.”

Mr Bridgen told the PA news agency: “I stand by my remarks which are backed up by the data.

“The Covid-19 virus is now endemic and most people of all ages have been exposed to it. Natural immunity is far better than vaccination as a protection.”