Starmer calls for “national action plan” for vaccine distribution
The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to enact a “comprehensive national action plan” for distributing the expected Covid vaccine.
In a letter to the prime minister, Starmer writes: “The challenge facing the country now is not just how we get control of the virus, but how we get ready for the vaccine. We are world leaders in vaccines, and I believe we should be aiming for a world-class programme for rolling it out.
“However, this will be a mammoth logistical operation, probably larger than we have seen since the second world war. If we are to get it right, then we must have a clear plan in place now.
“It should be a plan that harnesses all of the talents of the British people: our businesses, nurses, doctors, scientists and public servants.”
Starmer continues to say that the government should “consider supporting councils and local NHS services to refurbish community assets, such as town halls or sport centres, into local vaccine clinics” as part of the new programme.
He emphasises that the action plan must harness the talents of the British public for the new national vaccine programme. Following the announcement of a viable vaccine, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that UK residents are likely to be among the first in the world to receive a jab.
Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that preliminary findings show that their vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from contracting the virus.
The interim recommendations that determine who gets the vaccine once available are set up in terms of vulnerability. Currently, the list prioritises older adults in care homes and care workers first, followed by all those aged 80 and over, and health and social care workers.
Next in line are the over-75s, then the over-70s, and so on down the age groups, as more vaccine shots become available. But, Starmer has said that Labour is also calling for a plan into the interim criteria.
Saying they want a system that guarantees “equitable access to the vaccine no matter where you live”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told the Guardian: “The rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by the NHS which has vast experience delivering widespread vaccination programmes, and an enormous amount of planning has taken place to ensure our health service stands ready to deploy.
“This includes putting in place logistical expertise, transport, PPE and an expanded workforce to ensure we can deploy vaccines rapidly once they have met robust standards on safety and effectiveness and been approved by the medicines regulator. We have also provided GP practices with an additional £150m to support them over the coming months.
“We will follow independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations on which groups should be prioritised to receive a vaccine, and will publish further details on our deployment plans in due course.”
Starmer’s letter comes ahead of the visit to Oxford vaccine labs on Monday with the shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds.