Former British prime minister Tony Blair says the UK needs to dramatically accelerate its coronavirus vaccination programme.
On live TV Wednesday morning, Blair claimed that it was “not complicated” as he launched a ‘blue-print’ for improving the country’s vaccine roll-out.
He believed that restrictions could ease significantly in February if the NHS scales up to millions of vaccinations every week.
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The Mail Online reports: As supplies flow into the country in the coming weeks, Mr Blair said, officials should strain every sinew to make sure every dose is used as soon as possible. He said there should be pop-up vaccine centres and mobile ones, that pharmacies should be used, and volunteers recruited en masse.
Polling stations, pubs and offices should be used as hubs and supplies could provide as many as three million doses per week by the end of February, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change said in a report.
By the end of February, the institute claims that half the population could have had the first dose of a vaccine to protect them from Covid-19. Britain has only pledged to vaccinate 13million of the most vulnerable residents by the middle of next month.
Mr Blair has become involved in the vaccine policy after he was the first to publicly suggest restricting jabs to one dose to begin with and stretching them further, avoiding holding back supplies to ensure people get a second one. This has since become the official policy of the Government’s roll-out.
Questions are already being asked about why Israel has been able to leap ahead in the global vaccine race — with nearly a sixth of the 8.7million population immunised against Covid-19 in less than three weeks — while little over a million Brits have had a jab.
Mr Blair’s comments came as a GP on the frontline of Britain’s coronavirus vaccine push revealed doctors have still not received doses that were supposed to arrive last month, amid fears Boris Johnson has over-promised with his pledge to jab 13million Brits and end lockdown by March.
Dr Rosemary Leonard, an NHS family doctor who works in South London, said her practices were ‘raring to go’ and had been waiting on their first batch of vaccinations since December 28. But she claimed the delivery date has been pushed back three times already, with the first doses now not due to arrive until January 15, more than a fortnight late.
In his institute’s report Mr Blair said the UK should be preparing for the possibility that it could have a supply of five million vaccine doses per week by the end of March and it should be able to give them all out as quickly as they’re delivered.
He said that, by the week after next, AstraZeneca should be able to supply two million vaccines a week, rising to as many as three million per week in February.
Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are already in the country and more are coming.
And he said it was possible Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could be approved in February or March and then supply millions per week to the UK in March.
Moderna is also expected to deliver millions of doses in the spring.
He said based on these figures, the Government could be looking at three million doses a week by the end of January, four million a week by the end of February and five million a week by the end of March.
‘This would allow us to ease restrictions significantly in February and have a majority of the population vaccinated by the end of the third week of March,’ Mr Blair said.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, the former Labour leader said the UK must ‘use every single available bit of capacity in order to make sure these vaccines are used’.
This would involve using community pharmacies as vaccinators alongside retired people and occupational health workers, and using pop-up and mobile vaccination clinics.
‘We need to be ramping all of this up, and we just need to go on to a completely different footing with it,’ he said.
‘There’s really no reason why you need a very complicated system to do it. I get a flu jab every year and I get it at my local pharmacy, it’s not complicated.’