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expert comments on safety and regulation of COVID-19 vaccines (in light of Andrew Bridgen being suspended as a Conservative MP over his comments about COVID-19 vaccines)

In case useful for journalists covering Andrew Bridgen’s suspension.


Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, and Ashall Professor of Infection and Immunity, Pandemic Sciences Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“It is essential, as part of the scientific process, that hypotheses on vaccine safety and efficacy are tested rigorously in clinical trials and the data subjected to challenge by investigators and independent experts, and undergoes painstakingly detailed regulatory review, to ensure that we always base vaccine policy decisions on the very best scientific evidence and its interpretation. The emergence of new data or evidence is welcome in science to ensure that conclusions can be reviewed and revised as necessary so that the most effective and cost-effective use of vaccines continues. Ideological beliefs in favour or against vaccination are not science and have no role to play in making the best policy.”


Prof Deborah Dunn-Walters, Chair of the British Society for Immunology COVID-19 Taskforce, said:

“The safety and effectiveness assessments of all medicines and vaccines are based on robust and comprehensive analysis of the evidence.  These assessments are carried out as standard for all vaccines and medicines licenced in the UK. This is the gold standard of healthcare research and is the high-quality analysis the public deserve to allow them to make evidence-based decisions about their health.

“The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been available for over two years and many millions of doses have been given to people in the UK and around the world.  Both in the initial clinical trials (before the vaccines were licenced) and throughout this rollout period, many researchers and health agencies have been carefully analysing the ongoing effectiveness and safety of these COVID-19 vaccines. In the UK, this includes the MHRA, the independent regulators of medicines who regularly publish reports on the safety of all vaccines, and the JCVI who are an independent expert group who advise UK Government on immunisations.  There is now a huge amount of evidence from multiple studies which shows that COVID-19 vaccines, including the mRNA vaccines, are the safest and most effective way to prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19, and the benefits by far outweigh the risks in the vast majority of people.  This is particularly true in vulnerable populations such as older people and those with conditions that weaken their immune system, who have been offered a booster vaccine this winter.”


Prof Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol, said:

“Both denying the existence of vaccine side effects and exaggerating them are very unhelpful to the public, to public health and to maintaining trust in medicine and science. Serious injury due to vaccination definitely does occur but, mercifully, it is very rare while the benefits are near universal. Adverse events following immunisation need to be carefully and constantly monitored in order to find out whether they are really caused by vaccination or just coincidences in time, while policy recommendations for particular vaccines for particular age and risk groups are always based on the evidence showing the balance of risk and benefit at any particular time for each disease and vaccine. It is fair to say that both expert and public opinion demands that the individual benefit must greatly outweigh any risk or theoretical risk for a vaccine to be recommended. Having been closely involved in such risk-benefit assessments of COVID vaccines for the UK over the last 3 years, I can say with confidence that this approach has been consistently taken throughout and that policy decisions have followed such evidence-based recommendations.”


Prof Sir Kent Woods FMedSci, Emeritus Professor of Therapeutics, University of Leicester, said:

“No medicine is totally free of potential side-effects; the key issue is the balance of benefits against harms. There is overwhelming evidence from both trials and epidemiological data that the benefits of Covid vaccines for the population as a whole far outweigh potential harms. Globally, an estimated 20 million deaths were prevented by the Covid vaccines during their first year of use (Watson et al, Lancet Infectious Diseases 2022; June 23).

“Freedom of speech, particularly on such a public platform as the House of Commons,  carries a responsibility not to mislead the public by alarmist statements which misrepresent the scientific evidence. Moreover, Mr Bridgen in his adjournment debate on 13 December sought to discredit the regulatory authorities around the world which have approved these vaccines by suggesting they have been “captured” by industry. He presented no evidence for this serious allegation. The funding of UK medicines regulation by industry fees-for-service is the mechanism laid down by Parliament and is one of many examples of the cost of regulation being borne by those regulated. 

“The World Health Organisation has included vaccine hesitancy among the ten leading threats to public health. The MMR-autism fiasco demonstrated clearly that groundless assertions of vaccine hazards can cause real harm. I am pleased to see that his party is taking action.” 



Declared interests

Prof Sir Andrew Pollard: This comment is made in a personal capacity. Andrew Pollard is chair of the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), but does not chair or participate in the JCVI coronavirus committee, and is a member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts.  He has received research funding for coronavirus vaccine research from UKRI, CEPI and NIHR.  Oxford University has entered into a partnership with Astra Zeneca for the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Prof Deborah Dunn-Walters: “No interests to declare.”

Prof Adam Finn is a member of JCVI and also does vaccine policy advisory work for WHO.  He is Chief Investigator of the Valneva vaccine clinical development programme in the UK.  He receives no remuneration for this work over and above his salary from the University of Bristol and has no personal or family financial or intellectual property assets related to this company or any other vaccine developer or manufacturer.

AF is an investigator in several COVID19 vaccine trials and studies including Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Janssen and Valneva vaccines and several UK government-funded studies involving more than one vaccine.  He is U.K. Chief Investigator Sanofi COVID19 booster vaccine trial.  He is an advisor to the UK government as a member of JCVI.  He chairs the WHO Euro Technical Advisory Group of Experts and is a member of the WHO Special Advisory Group of Experts Working Group on COVID19 vaccines.  He undertakes consultancy work for several vaccine developers.  He receives no personal remuneration for any of this work, owns no IP or stocks and shares and is paid only in his role as Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol.

Prof Sir Kent Woods: “I was chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency 2004-2013 and chairman of the Management Board of the European Medicines Agency 2011-2015. I have no other interests to declare.”



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