Coronavirus: Government appoints a dedicated vaccine minister

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Nadhim Zahawi

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Boris Johnson has appointed a dedicated minister to take charge of the deployment of the Covid vaccine, days after Labour warned the role was necessary to avoid a repeat of the mistakes seen over PPE and NHS Test and Trace. 

Nadhim Zahawi will be made a health minister, with responsibility for the coronavirus vaccine, Downing Street has announced.

The temporary arrangement is set to last until at least next summer.

Mr Zahawi is currently a minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  

Earlier this week Labour warned of the “herculean” task the government faces to deploy vaccines in the scale needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We’ve got to roll out a vaccine with a scale and a magnitude that we’ve never seen before, and given that we’ve seen so many problems this year with the procurement of PPE and the £12bn test and trace… we’ve suggested to the government, why not have a dedicated minister for vaccines who can pull all the work together and can ensure we’ve got a plan?”

Earlier experts warned of ‘bumps in the road’ ahead as they predicted at least one vaccine could be approved by regulators next month.  

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said he expected the Pfizer vaccine to be approved by “early to mid December”.

He told BBC Breakfast, the Pfizer vaccine would probably be used for NHS staff, however.  

He said: “You’ve got to store them at (temperatures of) minus 70 or minus 80 in a very large cold-chain fridge, and then because they only last five days when they come out of the fridge, you’ve also got to ensure you’ve got all those 975 people lined up and ready to go.

“So whereas the other vaccines are probably likely to be done through primary care, through GP surgeries like they do flu vaccination, for the Pfizer one it’s going to be our trusts who are going to have to do that…

“This a huge logistical task that we’re doing at real pace, so I can’t believe there won’t be some bumps in the road…

“But look how brilliant the NHS is in terms of being innovative and adapting to ensure it can fight this coronavirus, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing to ensure that we can deliver the vaccine.”

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