The vaccination rollout is an undoubted triumph for the UK. It stands out in stark contrast to all the lack of preparedness and blundering we were subjected to in the early part of the pandemic.
The Government obviously likes to bask in the glory of this success, especially at election time. But how much of this glory is deserved and how much simply reflected?
The general lack of preparedness for the pandemic from: out of date and insufficient PPE stockpiles, through lack of ICU beds and general NHS cutbacks, to centralisation and disinvestment from locally based communicable disease control; is down to Government. Despite it being a risk that had been identified and “war-gamed” quite recently,
The emergency Government reaction to this lack of preparedness, was to turn to a VIP list of those with connections and the employment, at vast expense, of “consultants” e.g. to procure PPE and to create a “track and trace” system and “Moonshot” programmes. It did not fully mobilise the public resources at its disposal across central government. How long did it take to use the statistical sampling expertise of the ONS to direct our limited testing capabilities? Why were the local authority public health services sidelined?
According to the National Audit Office, the government response to the coronavirus pandemic is on track to cost the public purse £210bn for the first six months of the crisis. Equivalent to almost a quarter of the government’s annual budget for running the public sector.
Frankly, the general consensus is that this has been a costly and not very effective exercise.
In contrast, the vaccine rollout programme has been run by public sector bodies: the NHS, the General Practice Service with the Military responsible for the logistics.
The choice of “well connected” venture capitalist Kate Bingham to lead the vaccine task force to identify the most promising candidate approaches and then spread the bets, was not without controversy. (£670K PR bill and allegations of sharing sensitive documents at a private conference). But she did pull the right expertise together.
The fact that there are any vaccines at all is down to the dedicated scientific teams who did react at an early stage as information emerged that something alarming was happening in China.
Locally this post says it all: