Steve Bates' phone rang last May. The United Kingdom was in the middle of its first nationwide lockdown—a stay-at-home order was in force, schools and most stores were closed, and scientists cautioned that a vaccine could still be out for years.
An old pal, Kate Bingham, a biotech businessman who had just decided to head the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, was at the other end of the fence, a team of private-sector experts assembled by the British public to procure vaccine doses. She wanted him to be a part of
Bates, a lobbyist who leads the UK BioIndustry Group, told CNN, "She wanted my contacts. She knew that I knew everybody in the industry," "Kate Bingham said to me, 'we've never made a vaccine that's worked against a human coronavirus. This is a long shot.'"
Compelled in a moment of turmoil by a sense of national responsibility, Bates decided to place his day job on hold. There was an unpaid role.
At the time, the British government had one of the world's largest national death tolls, dragging its heels to enact limits on lockdowns, displaying an unwillingness to implement laws, and following unsuccessful efforts to detect and track the spread of the epidemic. Again, the border was already wide open, and the government was tossing money at a revolving cast of contractors from the private sector to procure basic personal protective equipment (PPE) — an endeavor that seemed more effective than obtaining supplies is raising controversy.
Yet the foresight of the government in endorsing coronavirus vaccination has been one of the pandemic's most surprising success stories.
Despite its highly criticized pandemic response, which has led to more than 117,000 deaths and more than 4 million outbreaks of coronavirus to date, the United Kingdom has already distributed 15 million doses of coronavirus vaccine—a target set by the government to meet everybody by February 15 in its top four priority categories. Everyone aged 70, frontline health and social care staff, people staying in care homes, and the mentally highly vulnerable are included in the categories.
The moment was praised by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling it a "significant milestone" and an "extraordinary feat."
In England, I can now assure you that in the first four priority groups we have now given jabs to everybody, the people most likely to be critically sick with Coronavirus, meeting the first target we set ourselves, "In England, I can now tell you we have now offered jabs to everyone in the first four priority groups, the people most likely to be severely ill from Coronavirus, hitting the first target we set ourselves,"
The British government is now planning to supply the remaining risk groups and adults aged 50 with the first dose by the end of April.
Soccer grounds, horse racing tracks, cathedrals, and mosques are being used as mass vaccination sites in the world. And the government can meet almost any individual in the world via the National Health Service (NHS) to arrange a vaccine appointment.