Whitehall’s spending watchdog has revealed that vaccinating residents against Covid-19 will cost up to 12 billion pounds sterling, amid details of tensions between health authorities over the startup.
The National Audit Office said the government will spend up to 11.7 billion pounds on purchasing and manufacturing Covid-19 baits for the UK before deploying to England.
A report released on Wednesday revealed that officials from Public Health England have complained that they are being excluded from major decisions despite their previous experience with vaccine delivery programs.
Meg Hillier, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the report showed the government was right to support a number of vaccines, but the accountability arrangements were “very unusual”.
“ Organizations that know how to conduct mass vaccination campaigns did not always have a seat at the table when making decisions.
“The logistical challenges of vaccinating tens of millions of people – combined with other pressures on the NHS – cannot be understated,” she said.
The report examined how the government handled the development and planning of a comprehensive vaccination program.
Kate Bingham, Venture Capital and Head of the Vaccine Task Force, was appointed in May and reports directly to Boris Johnson. She was responsible for selecting the vaccines to purchase and ensuring that the UK had access to adequate quantities.
NHS England, NHS Improvement (NHSE & I) and Public Health England are spearheading the operational implementation of the vaccination program in England.
The report revealed that Public Health England raised concerns in June that “the operational expertise for deploying the vaccine was not being represented in senior boards and task force groups”. It wasn’t until September 2020, the report said, that Public Health England and NHS England and Improvement each had regular significant representation.
The report said that current government plans aim to vaccinate up to 25 million people with two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine throughout 2021, but these are subject to change depending on vaccine developments.
The public treasury may incur additional costs because vaccine contracts contain some form of compensatory protection for pharmaceutical companies in the event of any legal action arising from the negative effects of vaccines.
Auditors have warned that no cap applies to the amount the government could pay if there was a successful claim against the companies in four of the five contracts agreed so far.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as 40 million Pfizer / BioNTech, seven million Moderna, 60 million Valneva SE and 60 million Novavax jabs.
The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out by the NHS after approval by the regulator.
Bingham, who is married to Treasury Secretary Jesse Norman, is expected to leave her post at the end of this year.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Thanks to the work of our vaccination staff, the UK is now in an exceptionally strong position with a diverse mix of 357 million doses of some of the world’s most promising vaccine candidates.
“To ensure that our country is in the best position to have any vaccine available for Covid-19 as quickly as possible and respond to future pandemics, we have worked to build a complete domestic vaccine manufacturing base from the start by investing in technical facilities across the country.”
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