COVID: UK Overseas Territory to be first whole island vaccinated after RAF flight

A remote UK territory in the South Atlantic could become the first whole island vaccinated against coronavirus, after the Royal Air Force flew 4,000 miles to deliver doses from RAF Brize Norton.

Just under 2,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were transported to Ascension Island, a sovereign base used as a bridging point in the South Atlantic.

An RAF A400M made the trip, with the journey taking around 12 hours.

The flight was delayed by 24 hours, after the military aircraft had to undergo maintenance.

Upon leaving refrigeration at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, the vaccine could spend no longer than 72 hours out of refrigeration or it would have expired and become unusable. 

The vaccines were stored at a controlled temperature for the duration of the trip, at which point they were put straight into refrigeration in Georgetown before being delivered to inhabitants of the island.

Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to the island, with enough vaccines for two doses dropped on the one flight.

Wing Commander Lee Roberts said: "There's a lot of work going on down in the Ascension Islands, and, for us, it's quite an important hub for us moving around the world."

WATCH: How the RAF flew the vaccines to Ascension Island.

Ascension is located near the equator and strategically positioned approximately 4,000 miles from both the UK and the Falkland Islands.

The island's role is to deter military aggression against the UK's South Atlantic Overseas Territories in order to maintain UK sovereignty.

It has a population of nearly 800, and includes staff, military personnel and contractors.

Base commander on the island, Wing Commander Colin Melvin, said he was "really delighted" to see the vaccine delivered.

"Having everyone vaccinated on island, will give us reassurance here on island, that we’re keeping everyone safe on island and moving forward allows us to continue our operations here on Ascension."

He added that the vaccines would give personnel on the island more options for coping with the pandemic.

"Ascension's COVID protection strategy and the protocols that we have applied with the support of the government and other employing organisations… have been very thorough.

"We have been doing managed quarantine now since the start of the pandemic and we continue to do so now, and the vaccine arriving on island will hopefully, in the future, give us some additional options, they may be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel."