Israel is still leading the world in vaccinations but the UK is now on a path to vaccinate most adults in the country by May.
In a letter leaked to the BBC [adviser to the prime minister Samuel] Kasumu revealed that by the end of May “the vast majority of the country’s adults would have received the first jab”. He also said that working on the vaccines programme had been the most important job of his life.
An earlier mix-up in Downing Street saw the official target date for inoculating all over-50s published online, leading to renewed calls for a swift end to lockdown.
A No 10 spokesman initially said that the aim to vaccinate all over-50s by the beginning of May had been published “in error” before acknowledging moments later that the dates were in fact correct. Ministers had previously asserted that they would reach the target “by spring”.
The NY Times looked at the numbers and concluded that if it can maintain that pace, the entire population will have had at least one dose of the vaccine by June.
Britain is on a pace to give the first shot of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine to its entire population by the end of June, if it can avoid supply and logistical issues that threaten to slow one of the world’s fastest rollouts.
The most vulnerable will get their first doses much sooner — likely over the next two weeks — which could drastically reduce deaths. People over 70, nursing home residents and workers, health and social workers, and those whose health problems make them extremely vulnerable are all on schedule to receive their first vaccine shots before Feb. 15. Together these groups have accounted for 88 percent of all Covid-19 deaths.
Here’s a graph the Times published based on UK data.
The country may not reach herd immunity until sometime in May, but the death toll and hospitalization rate should drop significantly once the most vulnerable population is immunized in another month or so. As of this week the country has already vaccinated 15% of the population. To the degree this rollout is a success, it’s largely because Britain was very aggressive about securing multiple vaccines.
The British government has now ordered 407 million doses from seven manufacturers — about six per person in the country — though only three of the vaccines are currently approved for use. Some of the deals will see the supply of vaccines delivered in the second half of 2021 or even next year.
One of the deals the UK made to get access to a vaccine involved a company in France. French law prevented France from fully funding the company’s attempt to develop a vaccine but the UK simply sent the company a check. Some in France are not happy that a French company will be sending their vaccine abroad but the company’s CEO defended their actions pointing out that the UK took all the risk and was the first to act so they will get the reward.
Franck Grimaud, the company’s chief executive, said that several governments had been contacted at the launch of the project. “The UK responded the fastest,” he said.
“In large part no doubt because we already had a base there and also because they believed straight away in our ‘inactivated’ vaccine. They took all the risks . . . and immediately forwarded €96 million to use before the end of December. It’s logical that, under contract, we undertook to deliver to them first.”
Today the President of the EU admitted that Britain had operated as a “speedboat” because it acted alone while the rest of the EU was more like a large ship:
In an acknowledgement of Europe’s slow pace of vaccine rollout, Ursula von der Leyen said that operating on its own allowed the UK to move more nimbly to secure supplies…
“Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a ship,” von der Leyen told a group of European newspapers.
“Before concluding a contract . . . the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not. This naturally delays the process.”
That statement ought to provide a nice boost to Boris Johnson who championed Brexit. Yesterday, the NY Times published a somewhat snarky analysis piece admitting that Boris Johnson was looking pretty good (for once):
“This was the first big test of E.U.-U.K. relations in the post-Brexit era,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent, who studies the British right. “For people who voted to leave, it has given them hope that a post-Brexit U.K. is not only viable, but potentially successful.”…
At home, the prime minister lost no time in wielding the vaccine issue as a club against his political rivals. On Wednesday, in the House of Commons, Mr. Johnson mocked the Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, for saying he wished Britain had remained in the European Medicines Agency, which has been slower to approve vaccines than Britain’s health regulator.
Mr. Starmer dismissed the claim as “nonsense” before admitting later that he had once said Britain would be better off staying under European regulators (though he noted that this was not the position of his party)…
“It would be churlish and untrue to say this wasn’t also a procurement success,” said Jonathan Powell, a critic of Mr. Johnson who served as chief of staff to Tony Blair when he was prime minister. “They took a big gamble, and it went well. There is no doubt that they’ve done better than the E.U.”
Labour is counting on the long economic recovery ahead eventually making people forget about this momentary success. Still it’s a rare moment when even some of Johnson’s critics have to admit he did well on an important task and that Brexit may have helped the country.