Ireland’s Leo Varadkar on vaccination delay: “I’m not 100% sure but I am told it takes a couple of days to organise things

Barely mentioned by the Irish press – if he was a British Minister, the UK media would have delighted in sewing discontent with claims of “incompetence”.

First vaccine approved

UK: 2/12/20
EU: 21/12/20

First contract for any Covid vaccine placed:

UK: May 2020
EU: August 2020

UK (Pfizer) : July 2020
EU (Pfizer): November 2020 (and too little).

“The process in Europe was not as quick and straightforward as it was in other countries” (Prof Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech)

Last year the UK media spent over a week criticising the UK for not joining a similarly slow EU Covid PPE consortium. As usual, they were remiss in following up and reporting that the EU then took nearly 2 months to invite tenders.

First allocation of doses by Pfizer Biontech after vaccine approval.

UK: 800,000(i)
EU: most countries about 9,750. (ii)Germany unknown, but expects to have received 1.3M doses by end 31/12/20 – see note below.

(i)The UK was the first country/body to pre-order from Pfizer/Biontech and consequently was at the front of queue for receiving the vaccine.

(ii)To the annoyance of other EU countries it has been revealed Germany placed its own side order for 30M doses of Pfizer. A spokesman for the EU declined to comment on whether it was in breach of EU agreements. He said, however, that EU countries had made a political commitment to avoid parallel negotiations with the same pharmaceutical companies.

Days from regulatory approval until vaccination rollout started:

UK: 5 days

EU best: 5 days (Germany & most others)
Ireland: 7 days (an afternoon photo-op brought forward from following day after criticism)
Netherlands: 18 days (yet to start – scheduled for 8 Jan)

Numbers vaccinated in “first week”

(Differing time spans due to data available)

UK: 137,000 (1 week)

Europe best:
Germany 78,000 (1 week 1 day)

Europe worst (and maybe others I haven’t figures for):
France < 100 in first 3 days. France’s target is to vaccinate 1M by end of Jan (the UK almost reached 1M by end Dec)
Switzerland about 30 in 6 days
Holland: 0 (rollout starts 8 Jan)

Blockages and hurdles going forward:

Borosilicate glass vials:

Vials are single use and the world population is 7,600,000,000. We might be able to produce sufficient Oxford vaccine but we have to import the vials to distribute it. Over coming months we may find our rollout limited by vial shortages, as other countries speed up or start their vaccination programmes.

Thatcher/Blairism has decimated UK manufacturing and led to an unbalanced London(services) centric economy. Our last factory with furnaces capable of producing borosilicate glass was relocated to France in 2007.

In 2016 I argued that manufacturing capability was more important than nuclear missiles for our security; and that Brexit would give Government the freedom to ensure the survival of our dying Steel Industry. I’m hopeful the Johnson Government shares this viewpoint; it is investigating ways to help the glass industry restart borosilicate production – too late for the immediate crisis.

Labour Force (and bureaucratic managers working for State Institutions):

With limited medical staff (also needed for treatment); rapid rollout might depend on how quickly the Health Service can train and enrol additional staff.

I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple covid jab. (Dr Liam Fox MP, former GP and vaccine programme volunteer). Hopefully soon to be resolved; and managers and bureaucrats will accept that during a crisis speed is more important than the odd sacred cow.