The Covid-19 vaccine will be made available for terminally ill people as soon as it is clincally appropriate to do so, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed, after a campaign spearheaded by Pinsent Masons’ head of communications.
Fred Banning, aged 38, a popular member of the legal PR community, was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. He has been pushing for terminally ill people to have early access to any vaccine so he can spend more quality time with his two sons and the rest of his family.
Banning initially gained local attention in his own local area in Scotland, with the SNP MP for East Renfrewshire tabling an early day motion backing his campaign, and a number of MSPs pledging their support, including Nicola Sturgeon. This led to wider coverage in the national press and the support of 12 prominent charities who wrote an open letter to The Times backing his cause. He won the support of the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer QC, after speaking to him on his LBC radio show this morning, with Starmer promising to take up his case.
Starmer said: “Fred, I really feel for you here, and I can imagine you just want to get a vaccine and spend as much time with your family as you possible can.
“And the answer to your question is yes, I will support you in this, yes I will meet you to talk about it, and yes I will certainly personally try to get hold of Matt Hancock and see whether something can be done about this.
“This is not party political by the way; Matt Hancock is a human being, the Prime Minister is a human being, they do understand this. Something needs to be done Fred, and I will do whatever I can to make sure that is done as quickly as possible.”
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon (14 December), the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth MP asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP: “Today I spoke to Fred Banning. Fred is just 38. He has two children under 10, and he has terminal cancer. He asks that those with terminally illness are given quicker access to the vaccine, so he can, in the words that he said to me this morning, make the most of the time he has left with his family.
“I understand these are clinical issues but could he, through his offices, look into access to the vaccine for those with terminal illness and see what can be done for people like Fred and many others in this situation?”
In response Hancock said: “What I would say is that those with terminal cancer are of course clinically vulnerable by their nature and by the nature of that awful disease and we will ensure those who are clinically vulnerable do get access to the vaccine when it is clinically appropriate, and I am very happy to take up the individual case that he raises and ensure [Fred] gets a fair deal.”