James Sunderland calls on UK to learn from armed forces about an acceptable level of risk

James Sunderland welcomes the update on vaccinations for the armed forces and suggests that, in our fight against the pandemic, we can all learn from the armed forces about the need to be comfortable with a level of risk in the face of adversity.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

I welcome the update on vaccinations for our forces. While the MOD has a clear responsibility to protect its people, does the Minister agree that our forces will always get on with the task in hand and will generally be comfortable with risk in the face of adversity, a lesson that can perhaps be extended more broadly to our fight against the pandemic today?

James Heappey (Minister for the Armed Forces)

My hon. Friend is right of course that people in our armed forces do accept a heightened risk. However, the risk that they offer to accept is ordinarily one that is posed by the enemy, and we in the MOD certainly do not assume that they are willing and able to accept a higher risk of infection from a virus. The judgment that was made was not around their acceptance of risk; it was made around the fact that military personnel are invariably young, fit and healthy, so when decisions were made about the prioritisation of vaccine it felt correct—and I stand by this now—to prioritise the vaccination of those who were more elderly and vulnerable at home rather than those who were younger, fitter and healthier and serving overseas.