British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Nadhim Zahawi, at present a junior business minister, as the health minister responsible for the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, Downing Street has announced.
“The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi MP as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care. He remains a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,” the statement reads.
Zahawi will focus on the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, with the temporary arrangement set to last until at least next summer.
The minister has been critical of the Government's newly announced coronavirus response in recent days, particularly the fact that his constituency, Stratford-on-Avon was placed in the highest category, Tier 3. “I understand the concerns raised by large numbers of constituents about why the restrictions in Stratford-on-Avon are being affected by factors in areas further away from us than our immediate neighbours, such as Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, both of whom will be moving into Tier 2 next week," Zahawi said.
Vaccination in the UK
The Mirror reported Saturday that a vaccine, produced by Pfizer/BioNTech could be delivered to UK hospitals as soon as Monday, 7 December.
Staff within the NHS will be the first to receive the injection.
An NHS source told the Mirror: "We are expecting it within the next two weeks, they have identified how much is coming and where to. They're currently working out how to get it to the staff within five days."
Care-home residents and those aged 80 and above will have to wait, which has angered care-sector chiefs as residents and over-80s were previously identified by the Government as the most needy.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said in September that older people and staff in care homes should be prioritised.
But as the vaccine can only be removed from its -70C storage four times between leaving the factory where it is made in Belgium and being injected into a patient’s arm, it's thought that NHS staff are the natural choice to be first in line.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab with the expectation of 10 million doses by the end of the year.
There are also 100 million doses of a vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University on order, which does not need to be stored at such a low temperature.