The Zimbabwe Independent

No coronaviru­s vaccine until 2022 for quarter of the world


Nearly a quarter of the world may not have access to a vaccine until 2022, experts have warned.

Vaccinatin­g Britain will come at a cost of £12 billion with the NHS needing 46 000 new staff — but half of Britons still won't have received the jab by the end of 2021, a report has revealed.

The National Audit Office, which monitors government spending, said the plans assumed that just 25 million will receive jabs if enough become available.

This would suffice for the priority groups — the over-50s, frontline health workers, those in care homes and people with underlying health conditions.

But it would leave younger adults waiting until 2022.

Its report also warned that the taxpayer could be liable to pay legal costs — on top of the £11,7bn cost of developing, buying and manufactur­ing the vaccine — should anything go wrong.

The figures come as coronaviru­s cases continue to climb. Daily cases hit 18,540 on Tuesday this week, up 50% on the previous Tuesday, although deaths were down.

As Matt Hancock revealed more than 1,000 cases of a new Covid strain had been identified, mainly in the South, experts have warned the latest variant does not appear to be more deadly, and the risk that it will be impervious to existing jabs is regarded as low.

NHS England insisted that the 25 million figure was not a ceiling and that more Britons would receive jabs if they were available.

The NAO report found that vaccinatin­g the whole population will cost £12 billion — and that ministers agreed upfront payments of almost £1 billion in total for five of the seven vaccine contracts it signed.

The watchdog found the taxpayer could be liable for legal costs if there proves to be anything wrong with any of the vaccines – as pharmaceut­ical firms demanded immunity from liability before signing contracts.

And it revealed that the government may have to pay millions for vaccines even if they turn out not to work, because the contracts state the money cannot be returned. The report said that once mass vaccinatio­n swings into action, GP capacity will not be enough — and 46 000 staff may need to be hired.

It said the Government was planning for a 75% take-up rate of the jab.

Many Britons will have to travel to sports stadiums, conference centres and airports for their jab.

Sites such as polling stations could be used in areas with a high proportion of atrisk people and “roving vaccinatio­n sites” could take the jab into care homes.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “Government has worked quickly and effectivel­y to secure access to potential vaccines, using the available informatio­n to make big decisions in an inherently uncertain environmen­t.

“With one vaccine now approved for use and its roll-out started, significan­t challenges remain.

Efficient delivery to the UK population presents complex logistical challenges and requires excellent communicat­ion with the public.”

The report found that the Government had arranged deals for potential Covid-19 vaccines quickly.

But it said there may not be enough capacity to deliver them all without taking on tens of thousands of extra staff.

The document said: “Current understand­ing of the majority of vaccines is that each person will require two doses approximat­ely four weeks apart for it to be effective. That equates to up to 50 million vaccinatio­ns for Covid-19 alone.’

Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, told The Times that the Government was right to back a “number of horses,” when searching for a vaccine, but said account accountabi­lity arrangemen­ts were “highly unusual”.

The NAO report has been published as talks are set to continue between the UK government and the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on whether to keep Christmas “bubbles” allowing three households to mix from December 23.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament she did not have a “fixed view”, but they would be looking at whether the duration or number of households that can mix should be reduced.

In a veiled threat she also said her administra­tion will take whatever action it thinks is “appropriat­e'' even if there is no UK-wide agreement.

Drakeford said the nations face a “grim choice” with just eight days to go until the relaxed rules are due to come into effect, and many families already having made plans. They said high-income countries including the EU have reserved 51% of doses, but make up only 13,7% of the world population.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, experts from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US said 13 developers have struck deals for 7,5 billion doses in total, but only six have sold to low and middle-income nations, including Oxford/AstraZenec­a and Novavax. — MailOnline.

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