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The Breakfast Briefing: Have ministers made a rod for their backs with 30m vaccines pledge?

2 min read

Your morning guide to what’s moving in Westminster from the PoliticsHome team

If the Government had wanted to get a Monday morning headline out of last night’s delayed Number 10 press conference, they sure managed it. Thirty-million doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be made available to the UK public by September if trials are successful, Business Secretary Alok Sharma declared.

It sounds like a rare blast of good news in the daily grind of life under lockdown, and just the latest ambitious target set by the Government in the wake of that much-heralded drive to get 100,000 tests for the disease going per day and an “army” of 18,000 contact tracers in post this month.
But, as with all of these massive numerical pledges, the devil is in the detail. A vaccine for nearly half of the country within the next four months sounds remarkable, given that the current official estimate for when one will be ready stands at 12 to 18 months (with some scepticism over whether even that is too rosy a view).
The vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University still has to clear human trials - and while the global deal struck with AstraZeneca sounds promising, and the Government is throwing the kitchen sink at this with a further funding boost for manufacturing capacity, Sharma himself made clear there was no certainty a vaccine would ever be found.
The UK’s new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, which aims to produce “enough vaccine doses to serve the entire UK population in as little as six months” - is opening 12 months earlier than expected. But even that takes its opening date to ‘Summer 2021’.

There are, then, so many moving parts at play here that you have to wonder whether ministers - who wake up to the Daily Express splashing on ‘Britain’s race to get 30m vaccines by Autumn’, and the Mail going with ‘Half of Britons could get jab in months’ - may have made yet another rod for their own backs.

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