Coronavirus

Military 'Chomping At The Bit' To Support COVID Vaccination Roll Out

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey also praised ongoing mass testing work in Liverpool as the UK awaits a vaccine approval.

The roll out of a coronavirus vaccine is an "absolutely enormous" logistical task for the military and the NHS, a minister has said.

The Armed Forces and health service have been asked to be ready to start a vaccination process from the beginning of next month.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Forces News: "We have a lot to offer to that solution and we are chomping at the bit to do whatever is required of us because this is the moment that the nation has been looking forward to.

"As soon as that vaccine is available, we want to make sure that we’re helping people to get it out as quickly as possible."

About 12 coronavirus vaccines are in the final stages of testing, with the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech found to be more than 90% effective.

The Government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, although Health Secretary Matt Hancock said regulatory approval and a number of other hurdles must be cleared before vaccination can begin.

Mr Heappey added: "We [the Ministry of Defence] are developing a plan that starts from the moment that somebody says, 'get it out there'.

"The moment that that happens, that's when we come in and start to try and help make that happen."

The former Army officer also paid tribute to the military personnel currently assisting with a mass COVID-19 testing pilot in Liverpool.

Personnel supporting the city-wide testing pilot in Liverpool pause for two minutes to mark Armistice Day 2020 (Picture: PA).

"The military response, rightly, has won the admiration of my colleagues across Government because the decision to test an entire city is not a small one," he told Forces News on Armistice Day.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said on Wednesday that the number of tests in the city had reached more than 44,000 since the mass testing pilot began last Friday.

Mr Heappey said "battlefield qualities" across the forces can be easily transferred to roles such as the ones played by personnel at testing sites throughout the city.

"Their training is all about getting a grip of a situation quickly, making a plan and enacting that plan, and to do so more quickly than your enemy," he said.

"It stands to reason that our people would just be naturally comfortable with a task, the scale of which many people would find overwhelming, but for our people, it’s just another day in the office."

Currently, 7,500 personnel are on standby as part of the Government's Winter Support Force, formed to help authorities deal with COVID-19 in the coming months.

"If we are required to provide more, we will happily do so," Mr Heappey added.