Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made Nadhim Zahawi the minister responsible for overseeing the rollout of coronavirus vaccines at the health department, in the latest sign that the government is laying the groundwork for the jabs to become widely available.
Zahawi – who has been the Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon for a decade – will keep his role as parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He previously worked in the Department for Education.
It comes after Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech said their vaccines were more than 90 per cent effective.
Astrazeneca/Oxford University announced that their jab was around 70 per cent effective, although some have questioned the data. Astrazeneca is mulling running another trial to try to assuage concerns.
The UK expects to receive around 40m doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of 2021, with the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of the year. It has also ordered 5m doses of the Moderna jab and 100m doses of the Astra vaccine.
Government readies for UK coronavirus vaccine
The appointment of Zahawi comes as the government prepares for mass vaccinations, but also tries to manage the public’s expectations.
Yesterday, the government formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to evaluate whether supply of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be authorised.
On Thursday, Johnson said: “We now have reason to hope that by Spring, community testing and vaccines will combine to end this era of restrictions.
Yet he also said: “To get there we must first navigate a hard winter when the burden on our NHS is heaviest and the cold weather favours the virus.”
Zahawi will report to health secretary Matt Hancock. It is expected to be a temporary position, likely until next summer.