The news that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been approved by the United Kingdom – with the Astrazeneca Oxford vaccine hopefully to follow – is a bright spot in the winter days as we head towards an uncertain Christmas.
It looks too as if the UK Government has been far sighted in ordering 350 million vaccine doses from six different companies.
I hope the Oxford vaccine joins the approved list quickly. More of it has been ordered (100 million of the 350m doses) and it doesn’t need to be stored at such low temperatures as the Pfizer product.
The British Government put £65.5 million into its development and Astrazeneca have said they will take no profit from the vaccine if it is rolled out during the pandemic.
Britain is pretty good at cutting-edge research and has shown we can bring the necessary resources to bear to support the economy and local businesses during the crisis.
But the fact that this vaccine is being manufactured by Pfizer in Belgium is a reminder of how critical the production chain links to Europe are as we move towards the full implementation of Brexit.
Once we get the vaccine stocks, there is a desperate need to roll out the vaccination programme efficiently.
Front line workers, lonely residents in care homes, people required to shield because of vulnerable immune systems or age – indeed, all of us seeking a more normal life – wait desperately for the vaccine.
This needs a joined-up approach between the UK and Scottish Governments and local councils with effective and manageable local delivery – no repeat, please, of the late appointment letters, central bureaucracy and wasted effort that characterised this year’s flu vaccine programme. Also, the Covid-19 vaccine needs to get to four times as many people.
The SNP Government is even calling in the British Army to assist the vaccine distribution.
There is a real challenge to the Scottish Government to make a great success of the vaccine roll out and to restore a more normal life across Scotland quickly after nine months of difficulty, worry and suffering.
People will be justifiably unforgiving if it is botched.