Coronavirus

Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout 'Biggest Logistical Challenge Probably Since D-Day'

The Armed Forces will assist in the delivery of a coronavirus vaccine, it has been announced.

The Chair of the Defence Committee says he is pleased the military will help to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine in what he describes as "the biggest logistical challenge probably since D-Day or Dunkirk".

Tobias Ellwood’s comments follow an announcement by Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the virtual Conservative Party Conference on Sunday.

Mr Hancock told the conference: "The plans are in train – a combination of the NHS and the Armed Forces are involved in the logistics of making this happen."

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Mr Ellwood has called for the Armed Forces to do more.

He told Forces News: "Ultimately, it’ll be the biggest logistical challenge probably since D-Day or Dunkirk in order to get a vaccine out across the country.

"I’m pleased to see that the Armed Forces are participating because they’re actually very good at strategising and looking over the horizon, doing that logistical planning, and we’ve seen that in spades with the COVID-19 already, with the Nightingale hospital programme, for example."

Twenty thousand troops were put on standby at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The military went on to play a key role in the UK's response, building the NHS Nightingale hospitals, as well as assisting with testing and the setting up of mobile test sites.

The military has manned mobile testing units during the coronavirus crisis (Picture: MOD).

Former Head of Counter Terrorism Chip Chapman told Forces News: "The military are good at doing this.

"They’re good at doing it if they’ve got more preparation time and because at the moment we don’t have a vaccine, then it is absolutely mustard to the military that if they are going to have this as a role they can do the modelling behind it, work out the logistics of delivering this and that would make it far more efficient than it would be if it was 'send in the cavalry at the last moment'."

Mr Ellwood said he fears that throughout the pandemic, there has been a reluctance to use the military, and a perception that Armed Forces uniforms equate to a lack of central control.

He said: "If we look at what are the Government’s decision-making to date, take the testing, track and trace, take the app, take PPE for example, we have to put our hand up and say perhaps we could have done those things a little bit better if we had the foresight, the logistical vision as to what’s required, the strategic oversight – this is exactly what our Armed Forces are trained to do."

On Monday, the head of the UK's vaccine taskforce said less than half of the population could be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Kate Bingham told the Financial Times that officials were hoping to be able to administer the medicine to around 30 million adults in the country of around 67 million and "we just need to vaccinate everyone at risk".

Experts have also warned it may take more than a year for everyone in the UK to get a COVID-19 vaccine should one become available next year.