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Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi Says 1,000 Jabs A Minute Were Delivered On Saturday Morning

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he is confident the government will hit its target of jabbing the most vulnerable by mid-February (PA)

5 min read

The vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he is confident the government will hit its mid-February target of giving all the most vulnerable a coronavirus jab after revealing almost 1,000 a minute were delivered on Saturday morning.

He also said the UK was starting to store second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for when it will start having to provide both doses from next month so the pace of the rollout does not slow down.

It comes as:

  • Millions of people under 50 could be vaccinated in a “jabs at work” plan being considered by ministers, according to The Telegraph. When asked about it this morning Zahawi did not deny the reports.
  • The Treasury is said to be drawing up proposals for a double tax raid on Amazon and other companies who have cashed in on the coronavirus crisis to help plug the black hole in Britain’s finances, according to a front page story in The Sunday Times.
  • But The Observer revealed the volume of exports going through British ports to the EU fell by 68% last month compared with January last year, mostly as a result of problems post-Brexit.
  • Sir Keir Starmer is due to try and seek to reset his faltering leadership with a pledge to make the Labour Party “unashamedly pro-business”, but has been hit by a story in the Mail on Sunday revealing shadow attorney general Lord Falconer called the pandemic a “gift that keeps on giving” for lawyers.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday Zahawi said: "The limiting factor is vaccine supply... the vaccine supply remains finite. 

“I can tell you that yesterday between 11 and 12 o'clock we almost got to 1,000 jabs a minute, we got to 979 jabs a minute."

Zahawi added: "I'm confident we'll meet our mid-February target of the top four cohorts, I'm also confident because I have enough line of sight of deliveries that are coming through, that we will also meet the one to nine cohorts by May.

"It's a tough target by the way: many many people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have to be reached by GPs, some can't travel."

Asked if supply issues with manufacturers could see the current pace slow, he replied: "It will vary, no doubt. Vaccine manufacture remains challenging, any manufacturing process has challenges, I'm a chemical engineer by background.

"But as Patrick Vallance said, there's never been a vaccine manufacturing process of a new vaccine without its challenges, but we see better stability now and greater volumes, but they will move around.”

Zahawi also reiterated that the government is not looking at introducing vaccine passports, despite funding being given to UK tech firms to do research in this area.

“We have, as of yesterday, given the first dose to 11.5 million people and what they get is a card from the NHS with their name on it, the date they've been vaccinated with the first dose and the date for their second dose,” he said.

"One, we don't know the impact of the vaccines on transmission, two, it'd be discriminatory. 

“I think the right thing to do is make sure people come forward and be vaccinated because they want to rather than it being made in some way mandatory through a passport.

"If other countries require some form of proof then you can ask your GP - your GP will hold the record - and that will then be able to be used as your proof that you've had the vaccine.

"We're not planning to have a passport in the UK."

He added: "There are small start-up technology companies that have had some funding from UKRI [UK Research and Innovation] and Innovate UK who are looking at apps in this area, but we're certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment programme."

Appearing before him on the programme Andy Burnham, Labour’s mayor of Manchester, called for poorer areas of the country with lower life expectancy to get a higher priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.

"It has got to be a judgment based on health,” he told Ridge.

"What I'm saying is that the life expectancy rate varies very widely across the UK, there are places where it is 10 years behind the areas where it is highest.

"So basically what that means is that in those areas people who are in their 60s have the same level of health as people in their 70s in other areas.

"It also is the case that those same areas where life expectancy is lowest tend to be the places where more people are out at work in those key professions, working in essential retail and supermarkets or driving buses or driving taxis, so clearly they are at greater risk.”

Burnham said he was not saying we should diverge completely from the current JCVI priority list, adding: “But what I am saying is put greater supplies of the vaccine into those areas where life expectancy is lowest and allow greater flexibility for people to be called earlier."

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