Could Take Until 2022 to Vaccinate UK, Cost 11.7bn, Say Govt Auditors

Could Take Until 2022 to Vaccinate UK, Cost 11.7bn, Say Govt
Auditors 1

Estimations of how long it could take to vaccinate the entire United Kingdom against the Chinese coronavirus keep getting longer, after the National Audit Office (NAO) said that even by the end of 2021, only half of the population would be covered.

Sir Jeremy Farrar from the government’s influential Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had said only recently that it could take up to a year to roll out the two sets of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to every Briton.

Now, the NAO, which scrutinises public spending for parliament, has said it could take as long as two years when combined with an expanded influenza vaccination programme, Sky News reports.

So far, the British government has spent £2.9 billion on 267 million vaccines, but the audit office estimates that including additional costs such as deployment, the cost to taxpayers could hit £11.7 billion. This estimation does not include the outlay for booster vaccinations.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rollout of the jab at the beginning of December, he said that he was “sure and certain” that life would be back to normal by Spring.

“As we do all this we are no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year, in the Spring, but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed and together reclaim our lives and all the things about our lives that we love,” Mr Johnson said.

However, Farrar had said that vaccinations will not be “a final solution to COVID-19” and that Britons will have to continue to adjust their lifestyles for the foreseeable future. England’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, made similar remarks last week when he said that even during the vaccination rollout, Britons would still have to socially distance and wear face coverings long into 2021.

The first vaccine to be approved by the British government, and the first in the Western world, is a joint venture by American drugs company Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech. SAGE’s Mr Farrar said that at present it is not known whether the vaccine will be successful at not only stopping people getting sick, but preventing them from becoming contagious, saying that further “nasally administered vaccines or adjuncts” could be required to achieve “sterilising immunity”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a new strain of the Chinese coronavirus in the United Kingdom — but that “there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease”.

“And the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine,” Mr Hancock said.

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