Boris Johnson has claimed that money splurged by vaccine taskforce chief Kate Bingham on private PR companies was necessary to combat anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
Bingham, who is married to Tory minister Jesse Norman, was plunged into a scandal over the weekend when it was revealed she had spent £670,000 on private PR companies for the government’s vaccine taskforce over just seven months.
The Financial Times also reported yesterday that one of the partners of a PR company contracted by Bingham was the father-in-law of Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed Johnson for the growing scandal, saying the Prime Minister “may not know the value of the pound in his pocket, but the people who send us here do”.
Johnson told the House of Commons today that the spending was necessary to reassure people vaccines were safe and to encourage participation in trials.
“The expenditure to which he refers was to help raise awareness of vaccines, to fight the anti-vaxxers and to persuade the people of this country – 300,000 – to take part in trials without which we can’t have vaccines,” he said.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their vaccine candidate was 90 per cent effective and could be approved for use by the end of the year.
Johnson has said UK regulators will assess the vaccine candidate once safety data has been published by the companies this week.
There are fears that many people in the UK and the US will not accept any potential inoculation due to the abundance of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories circulating the internet.
A YouGov poll from June showed a staggering 33 per cent of Britons would refuse a Covid vaccine if made available.