COVID: Speed Just One Of Three 'Competing Components' In Vaccination Programme

Brigadier Phil Prosser says a high injection tempo must be balanced with separate factors for good progress to continue.

The British Army officer responsible for coordinating the military's support of the coronavirus vaccination programme in England says there is a "tension between three big parts" of the plan.

Brigadier Phil Prosser, Commander of Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Programme, believes the speed of the operation has resulted in strong vaccination numbers.

However, he said that this speed may need to be sacrificed in favour of "geographic equity" and the need to visit those who cannot attend a vaccination clinic, such as care home residents.

Armed Forces personnel are rolling out a COVID-19 mass vaccination programme alongside the NHS, delivering and administering vaccines while military planners and other troops offer logistical support.

Twenty Vaccine Quick Reaction Force teams, each with six military healthcare experts, have deployed to support the biggest homeland military operation in peacetime.

Reflecting on the work done in the past three weeks, Brig Prosser said: "One of the biggest things I've learned is the tension between the three big parts of this plan.

"We have to go at pace," he said, explaining that more than seven million vaccinations have been administered so far.

"But we also have to get it right across the country, and no part of the country should be left behind, so we've got to get that geographic equity right.

Army combat medics from 4 AMR (Armoured Medical Regiment) supporting the vaccination programme in Wales earlier this month (Picture: MOD).

"Then the final piece, especially in the early days as our aim is to get the vaccine into the arms of those most at risk, is that we have to go to those who are housebound and residents of care homes - as well."

He explained that these considerations "all come at the cost of one another" and planners must find the most effective compromise.

Listing the four qualities offered by the personnel supporting to the NHS, Brig Prosser said the forces bring "discipline and tempo", alongside "diversity of thought" and resilience under pressure.

"We are very similar organisations," he said, adding that the military is "enemy-facing in times of war" while the NHS is "patient-facing, generally in peacetime".

Protection of the country binds the two groups together aiming for "mission success", he told Forces News during a health pandemic which has seen defence medics take on patient-facing roles in some hospitals.

The mission must eventually come to an end, though.

"The military are brought in under strict Military Aid to Civil Authority principles and part of that is there can't be an alternative solution," said Brig Prosser, adding that the forces will depart "when the time is right" and the NHS no longer require their skills.