Nadhim Zahawi appointed as vaccine rollout minister

Minister for business and industry, Nadhim Zahawi has been appointed as a new health minister to oversee rollout of the Covid vaccine in England.

Zahari will temporarily relinquish responsibility for most areas of his brief at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The rollout is expected to begin before Christmas, subject to regulatory approval.

Zahawi said he was delighted to be appointed to the role.

He tweeted: “A big responsibility and a big operational challenge but absolutely committed to making sure we can roll out vaccines quickly – saving lives and livelihoods and helping us build back better.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "delighted", adding in a tweet there was "an enormous task ahead".

In the interim, Mr Zahawi will serve as a joint minister between the health department and the business department, where he currently works.

Hospitals in England have been told to prepare for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine in as little as nine days’ time, with NHS workers expected to be the first to receive the jab.

Mr Zahawi will look after deployment of the vaccine in England only, but will work with the devolved administrations on their chosen approach. Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be responsible for the vaccine's distribution in their relevant nations.

Currently, the UK government has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech and five million doses from US firm Moderna.

It also has orders for 40m doses of the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to have a 95% efficacy rate.

The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Only days ago Labour called for a vaccines minister to oversee the huge logistical challenge of widespread vaccination.

“We now need a mass public health campaign urging uptake of the vaccine, alongside ensuring the resources are in place for GPs and other health professionals to rapidly roll this out as soon as possible.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said the UK would be one of the first countries in the world to receive the vaccine, if it is authorised, with AstraZeneca set to have as many as four million doses ready for the UK by the end of the year and 40 million by the end of March 2021.

Zahawi, a businessman and co-founder of the polling firm YouGov, said this week he was concerned that his Stratford-on-Avon constituency had been placed in the third tier of restrictions.

“I am hugely disappointed and sad that Warwickshire will be moving into tier 3 next week, in particular because of the effect this will have on our hospitality and tourism industries, who have already been through so much this year,” he said according to local press.

Zahawi said that the whole country needs to work together to drive down infections to follow neighbouring counties into tier 2 when restrictions are reviewed in a fortnight’s time.

" I will do all I can to push and make the case for this to happen.”

Mr Zahawi's appointment follows calls from Labour for the government to appoint a vaccine minister, who would provide accountability and avoid repeating mistakes made over PPE procurement and NHS Test and Trace.

In addition to the vaccine rollout, the prime minister has said mass community testing, as seen in Liverpool, will be offered to all areas in tier three after lockdown ends on 2 December.