Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi (House of Commons)
Madam Deputy Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a statement on the UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan.
The plan, published today, sets out the strategies that underpin the development, manufacture and deployment of our vaccines against COVID-19.
It represents, Madam Deputy Speaker, a staging post in our national mission to vaccinate against the coronavirus.
And a culmination of many months of hard work from the NHS, our armed forces, Public Health England and every level of local government in our Union.
There are many miles to go on this journey, Madam Deputy Speaker, but armed with this plan, our direction of travel is clear.
And we should be buoyed by the progress we’re already making.
As of today, in England, 2.33 million vaccinations have been given.
With 1.96 million receiving their first dose, and 374,613 having already received both doses.
We’re on track to deliver our commitment of offering a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month; groups – it is worth reminding ourselves Madam Deputy Speaker – that account for more than 4 out of every 5 fatalities from the covid virus or some 88% of deaths.
But of course, this is a delivery plan for everyone, a plan that will see us vaccinate all adults by the autumn in what is the largest programme of vaccination of its kind in British history.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the UK vaccines delivery plan sets out how we can achieve that noble and necessary and urgent goal.
The plan rests on 4 key pillars: supply, prioritisation, places and people.
Turning to supply, our approach to vaccines has been to move fast and move early.
We had already been heavily investing in the development of new vaccines since 2016, including funding a vaccine against another coronavirus: the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS.
At the start of this year, this technology was rapidly repurposed to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and in April we provided £20 million of further funding so that the Oxford clinical trials could commence immediately.
Today, Madam Deputy Speaker, we are the first country to buy, authorise and use that vaccine.
Also in April, we established the UK government’s Vaccine Taskforce – or VTF for short – and since then, they have worked relentlessly to build a wide portfolio of different types of vaccine signing early deals with the most promising prospects.
It’s a strategy that has really paid off. As of today, we have secured access to 367 million doses – from 7 vaccine developers – with 4 different vaccine types including the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – which we were also the first in the world to buy, authorise and use.
The VTF has also worked on our homegrown manufacturing capability, including what is referred to as ‘fill-finish’ process – in collaboration with Wokhardt, in Wrexham.
Anticipating a potential global shortage early on, we reserved manufacturing capacity to allow for the supply of multiple vaccines to the United Kingdom.
Like many capabilities in this pandemic, it’s one we’ve never had before – but one we can draw on today.
So much of that critical work – undertaken early Madam Deputy Speaker – has placed us in a strong position for the weeks and months ahead.
The second pillar of our plan is prioritisation.
As I set out earlier, essential work to protect those of the greatest clinical risk is already well underway because the basic principle that sits behind all of this, Madam Deputy Speaker, is to save as many lives as possible, as quickly as possible.
In addition, we are working at speed to protect staff in our health and social care system.
All 4 UK Chief Medical Officers agree with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the JCVI – to prioritise the first doses for as many people on the priority list as possible and administer second doses towards the end of the recommended vaccine dosing schedule of 12 weeks.
This step will ensure the protection of the greatest number of at-risk people in the shortest possible time.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the third pillar of our plan is places.
As of yesterday across the United Kingdom we have over 2,700 vaccination sites up and running. There are 3 types of site.
The first: large vaccination centres, that use big venues like football stadia.
You saw many of those launch today.
At these, people will be able to get appointments using our national booking service.
The second type is our hospital hubs, working with NHS trusts across the country.
And the third: local vaccination services are made up of sites led by GPs working in partnership with primary care trusts and importantly community pharmacies.
This mix of different types of site offers the flexibility we need to reach many different and diverse groups.
And importantly be able to target as accurately as we can.
By the end of January, everyone will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site and in a small number of highly rural areas, Madam Deputy Speaker, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit.
It bears repeating, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when it is their turn we want as many people as possible to take up the offer of a vaccine against COVID-19.
The fourth and final pillar is, of course, our people.
I’m grateful to the many thousands who have joined this national mission.
We now have a workforce of some 80,000 people ready to be deployed across the country. This includes, of course, staff currently working within the NHS but also includes volunteers through the NHS Bring Back Scheme such as St John’s Ambulance, independent nurses and occupational health service providers.
And there are similar schemes across the devolved administrations. As well as trained vaccinators, non-clinical support staff – such as stewards, first aiders, administrators and logistics support – will play their part.
Moreover, we are drawing on the expertise of our UK armed forces whose operational techniques – we heard Brigadier Phil Prosser bring to life at the press conference a few days ago with the Prime Minister – have been tried and tested in some of the toughest conditions imaginable.
I’m sure the whole House will join me in thanking everyone who has played their part in getting us to this point as well as all those who will play an important role in the weeks and months ahead.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we recognise that transparency about our vaccines plan will be central to maintaining public trust and we are committed to publishing clear and simple updates.
Since 24 December, we have published weekly UK-wide data on the total number of vaccinations – and the breakdown between over- and under-80s for England.
From today, we are publishing daily data for England showing the total number vaccinated to date – and the first daily publication was this afternoon.
And from Thursday – and then on a weekly basis – NHS England will publish a more detailed breakdown of vaccinations in England – including by region.
Madam Deputy Speaker, this continues to be a difficult time for our country, for our NHS and for everyone, as we continue to live under tough restrictions.
But we’ve always known that a vaccine would be our best way out of this evil pandemic and that is the road we are now taking.
We’re under no illusion as to the scale of the challenge ahead – the distance still yet to travel.
In more normal times, Madam Deputy Speaker, the largest vaccination programme in British history would be an epic feat.
But against the backdrop of a global pandemic – and a new more transmissible variant – it is a huge challenge.
Yet, with this House – and indeed the whole nation – behind this national mission I have every confidence that it will be a national success.
I commend this statement to the House.