The military have already helped with mobile testing centres and policing during the pandemic – Paul Grover for the Telegraph
The British Army will be called in to help roll out the coronavirus vaccine once it has been developed, Matt Hancock has announced.
The Health Secretary said the vaccine was the “great hope” that would allow the country to get back to normal, and the Government would do all it could to distribute it according to clinical need.
The military will work with the NHS to run supply chains across the country, he said.
“The plans are in train. A combination of the NHS and the armed forces are involved in the logistics of making this happen, making the rollout happen.
“Because it’s not just about developing the vaccine and then testing the vaccine – which is what’s happening now – it’s then a matter of rolling out the vaccine according to priority, according to clinical need.
Mr Hancock echoed Boris Johnson’s words that here would be “bumpy months” ahead, but stressed that the Government hoped the country could have a normal Christmas.
“We are working as hard as we can to get a vaccine as fast as is safely possible,” Mr Hancock said.
The British Army has already been used to build Nightingale hospitals and work in mobile testing centres during the pandemic.
Soldiers collect swabs from workplace testing centres and drive them to labs for analysis, with results returned in 48 hours.
The Army has also been deployed in backroom roles within the police service, allowing more officers to get onto the street and enforce the Government’s coronavirus restrictions.
It is thought that, once the vaccine is ready, Nightingale hospitals could be repurposed as mass vaccination centres staffed by military personnel.
On Sunday Mr Hancock said the vaccine would be administered according to clinical need.
Plans on who will receive doses first are yet to be finalised, he said.
The World Health Organisation’s plan for vaccinating citizens prioritises doctors, nurses and social care workers first, followed by vulnerable groups and the elderly.
The WHO says it does not expect widespread vaccination of populations until the middle of next year.
Asked what his main priority was for the rest of his tenure as health secretary, Mr Hancock said it was the provision of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The UK has supply agreements with five vaccine trials, which Mr Hancock said meant the Government was not “putting all its eggs in one basket”.