Keir Starmer calls on PM to publish 'national action plan' for Covid vaccine roll out

16 November 2020, 05:20

File photo: Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at Westminster Abbey in London
File photo: Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at Westminster Abbey in London. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Prime Minister to publish a "comprehensive national action plan" for rolling out a coronavirus vaccine.

Sir Keir said the talents of British people should be harnessed to create a new national Covid-19 vaccine programme.

He also said the roll out "will be a mammoth logistical operation, probably larger than we have seen since the Second World War," and the UK "must have a clear plan in place."

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that UK residents are likely to be among the first in the world to receive a coronavirus jab.

Drug giants Pfizer and the German biotech firm BioNTech have announced that interim findings show their vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19.

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Sir Keir's comments came as it was revealed Prime Minister Boris Johnson must self-isolate after receiving an alert from NHS Test and Trace.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, Sir Keir states: "The challenge facing the country now is not just how we get control of the virus, but how we get ready for the vaccine.

"We are world leaders in vaccines, and I believe we should be aiming for a world class programme for rolling it out.

"However, this will be a mammoth logistical operation, probably larger than we have seen since the Second World War.

"If we are to get it right, then we must have a clear plan in place now.

"It should be a plan that harnesses all of the talents of the British people: our businesses, nurses, doctors, scientists and public servants."

Sir Keir said that Labour was calling for a plan that sets out the criteria and targets that will be used to determine who is eligible for the vaccine and when.

Labour also wants a system that guarantees "equitable access to the vaccine no matter where you live".

Sir Keir said the Government should "consider supporting councils and local NHS services to refurbish community assets, such as town halls or sport centres, into local vaccine clinics" as part of such an initiative.

The comments came ahead of a visit to Oxford vaccine labs on Monday by Sir Keir and shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said an "enormous amount of planning has taken place" to ensure the NHS is ready to deploy the vaccine.

They added: "This includes putting in place logistical expertise, transport, PPE and an expanded workforce to ensure we can deploy vaccines rapidly once they have met robust standards on safety and effectiveness and been approved by the medicines regulator.

"We will follow independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations on which groups should be prioritised to receive a vaccine, and will publish further details on our deployment plans in due course."

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