WHILE it is wonderful news that there are two Covid-19 vaccines ready to roll out in the next couple of months, the refusal by Matt Hancock, England’s Health Secretary, to rule out making vaccination compulsory is deeply troubling.

By doing so, Mr Hancock has put a question mark over a fundamental principle of medical ethics in a free society: informed consent. If our consent as adults is not required, then we are no better than the pets we take to the vet for their annual vaccination or to be neutered.

Of course, the Health Secretary’s remit only extends to England, but in the devolved governments there are individuals who are considerably more authoritarian than him, who, given his lead, would not reflect for a moment before adopting compulsion.

There is, of course, another aspect to informed consent, which is that the patient must be informed of both the benefits and the risks of the treatment before it commences.

While the risks from established vaccinations are very low, these new vaccines have only been tested for a few months. In the circumstances, it is probable that the take-up for these vaccinations will be much higher in those groups most at risk, the elderly and the chronically ill.

Matt Hancock and his equivalents in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast should not throw out a fundamental principle of medicine in a free society for a disease whose infection fatality rate is of the order of 0.2 per cent.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife.

YOUR lead letter from Alastair Clark (“Covid gives us a chance to change our culture, November 16) certainly made me and, I’m sure many other readers, think and blink a few times before then recalling the old saying that it takes all sorts.

Mr Clark is basically advocating for the introduction of an American-style Prohibition act from the 1920/30s. That went really well, didn’t it?

He also spoke of a ban on flying/holidaying abroad generally, which should stop this travelling-to-broaden-the-mind nonsense.

Then it came to me that if we continued with his theme, why stop there when we could also bring back food rationing to tackle obesity, national service to reduce crime levels, and compulsory self-flagellation to cleanse our souls?

In a more serious note, though I do agree that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that diverse views are to be welcomed, I do however, on reflection, sometimes think, as in the case of Mr Clark, that some opinions are best kept to oneself for obvious reasons.

James Martin, Glasgow.

WITH a population of over 300 million to serve, and “put America first” still resonating, when will Great Britain’s order for vaccine be processed by the American manufacturer, Moderna?

I wonder – but I am not holding my breath.

Eric Arbuckle, Largs.