The education secretary has told Sky News he would have been in “big trouble” if he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Recounting his experience of the virus, which he contracted at the end of last month, Nadhim Zahawi said he could have ended up on a ventilator.

“I think, without the vaccine and the booster, I’d have had it even worse, my doctor said, because it’s your physiology,” he said during a Q&A with Kay Burley.

“It’s your body’s reaction to COVID that will determine how severe or asymptomatic you might be,” Mr Zahawi said, adding that some family members had “no symptoms whatsoever”.

“By day four or five it got into my chest and started really affecting my breathing,” he continued, revealing that his temperature hit 39.5C and his doctor said he might have to be put on steroids.

Mr Zahawi said his doctor told him: “If you hadn’t had the vaccine and the booster, I guarantee you you would be in hospital and probably intubated.”

Urging viewers to get their jabs, he said: “The offer is evergreen from the NHS.

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“This thing is not like a cold.

“Certainly I would have been in big trouble, according to my doctor.”

Masks ‘inhibit learning’

In a Q&A that mostly touched upon his brief as education secretary, Mr Zahawi was asked a range of questions about government plans and policies by Sky News viewers.

The education secretary defended the decision to remove the requirement to wear masks in classrooms, saying they “inhibit learning”.

Mr Zahawi was also questioned about the government’s catch-up plans for pupils who have been affected by the pandemic.

He said he would ask the Treasury for more money if children did not appear to have caught up on lost learning by the end of this parliament, currently set for 2024.

“Every school has the opportunity to take up the tutoring programme… the first term of this year we have done as many tutoring hours as the whole of last year,” Mr Zahawi said.

The education secretary was asked if the government would consider ending the charitable status of independent schools, a move Labour has said could raise £1.7bn in tax.

Mr Zahawi said the “evidence is not there on this” and disputed the opposition’s assertion that it would generate extra tax revenue.