Coronavirus

Defence Secretary: Military Ready To Deliver 100,000 Vaccine Doses A Day

Ben Wallace said the military would not be "imposed" on the NHS but personnel stand ready to help if needed.

The UK military will be able to deliver more than 100,000 coronavirus vaccinations a day if needed, according to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

Mr Wallace said he has plans for up to 250 teams of mobile, medically-trained personnel who could administer the vaccine nationwide.

He told Times Radio: "That would be over 100,000 a day they could potentially deliver if that is requested by the NHS...and we're planning to even grow that if possible."

Mr Wallace said that many armed forces clinicians are reservists already working in the NHS, so they are unlikely to be shifted from their primary role.

But the armed forces also has combat medics who are capable of delivering vaccinations, he said, adding: "Those are the people we would make available to increase delivery of the vaccine as the vaccine stocks come online".

Mr Wallace said the NHS has been recruiting volunteers and might not, therefore, need military assistance.

The military will not be "imposed" on the NHS to help with the COVID-19 response but will be available if help is asked for, he said.

"We stand ready to do that but it is of course correct in our constitution that the civilian authorities make the request."

The UK approved the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Wednesday, and will start using it on Monday in addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine already in use.

It comes as chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, says there is "so much more" that the military could be doing with the Oxford vaccine roll out and at Nightingale Hospitals.

The Bournemouth East MP told BBC Radio Solent: "This [planning to use the military] is the horizon planning you want to see from the government.

"There are 2,000 medically-trained personnel which could be used in this way [Nightingale Hospitals].

"They can't just arrive. It has to be a MACA request - a military assistance to civil affect."

"I raised this... And I know the defence secretary has said 'I'm happy to help'.

"But that request has not been made."

A soldier from the King's Royal Hussars B Squadron times lateral flow testing as part of Liverpool's mass testing programme (Picture: MOD).

On the topic of Nightingale Hospitals, Mr Wallace said the military "stand ready to help" if the critical pressures go beyond the capacity of the existing NHS.

"We are on, I think, 17,000 ventilator beds currently being used of a capacity of 21,000 so if it starts to tip over there then of course you'll see those Nightingales being more active and, yes, we have a number of medical staff."

Discussing the issue of schooling during the pandemic, the Defence Secretary said the military can provide "guidance remotely" or send personnel to support teachers and staff in how to use the lateral flow test.

"I'm confident that the military are there to help people get back to school. We stand ready to do that."

When asked why the army was not being used to clear crowded public spaces, he said: "We have civilian authorities, police, others to be able to do that.

"People need to take that responsibility but the army aren't going to push people around in that way."

Cover image: MOD.