Worth a shot

This report fro UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute looks at accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Adam Smith Institute’s latest paper, by Fellow James Lawson, independent researcher Jonathon Kitson, and Head of Research Matthew Lesh, explains how accelerating the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is both deeply desirable and very possible: The COVID-19 pandemic rages on with an average of over 40,000 daily new confirmed cases in the United Kingdom (UK), an all-time high. Over 400 people a day die with the virus, and lockdown measures necessitated by the virus continue to cause further harms. The fastest and safest way out of this crisis is mass vaccination. In international terms, the UK was the first to begin vaccinating and is well-ahead of other European countries and narrowly ahead of the United States. Nevertheless, at the current rate Phase 1, one dose for vulnerable groups, will not be completed until late 2022. It is both possible and necessary to accelerate Britain’s vaccination programme. Israel has been vaccinating as much as 10-times faster than the UK per head. The current Government target, one million doses per week, would mean Phase 1 would not be completed until August 2021, well after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s target for “back to normal” by Easter. The pandemic is hugely costly to both the Government and the economy more widely. Every additional week of the pandemic costs the taxpayer £6 billion, while reducing economic activity by £5 billion. There are also countless harder to quantify costs, for example, declines in pediatric vaccinations, cardiovascular admissions, and endoscopic services and mental health. Speeding up the vaccination effort to 6m people a week could save as many as 50,000 lives. The huge costs of the pandemic justify a “war effort” to accelerate vaccinations and end the crisis. Britain’s vaccination programme is being hampered by an excessively centralised, command and control approach that has rebuffed help from the private sector, the armed forces and volunteers. If the Government wants to rapidly speed up vaccinations, protect the vulnerable and end the pandemic they should set a target of six million doses per week, matching Israel’s speed at scale. It will also be necessary to create a Number 10 ‘War Room’ dedicated to accelerating the vaccination programme, empowered to remove bottlenecks. The COVID-19 pandemic is an extraordinary challenge. The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in putting an end to the crisis — but it will take a new ambitious approach to the vaccination challenge.

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