Pharmaceutical and grocery giants offer distribution and logistical expertise as UK starts mass rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Boots will open vaccination sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester while Tesco subsidiary Best Food Logistics has offered its support.
The Big 4 market leader is at the forefront as the UK's private sector ramps up efforts to support mass immunisation. Best Food Logistics will supply refrigerated lorries and warehouse space as the government races to get millions of doses of the newly approved vaccine across the country by April.
In addition, restaurants and pubs closed by the Covid crisis are offering spare capacity for the vaccination programme. Boots and the pharmacy sector are urging the government to make use of their high street network in the fight against the coronavirus.
Boots' three dedicated vaccination sites have been set up with local clinical commissioning groups and are expected to go live this month. The pharmacy giant has experience of mass immunisation programmes, having delivered one million flu jabs last year, and has developed a delivery method that respects clinical, operational and safety standards.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on the Andrew Marr Show that there would be 530,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine available at 101 hospital sites and 540 GP vaccination sites from the beginning of this week. The Prime Minister also claimed that one million people had already received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.
Johnson said there was an additional million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine still to be used and said the government was rolling them out as quickly as possible. The first vaccine to be approved for use in the UK, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, requires cold storage at minus 70C, unlike the Oxford vaccine that can be stored in a fridge.
Closures create capacity
Meanwhile the widespread closure of hospitality centres across the UK has created spare capacity for Best Food Logistics and their refrigerated lorries could be critical in creating the right supply chain for the nationwide rollout. Pfizer, one of the world's largest manufacturers of sterile injectables, also has excellent infrastructure in place, including good inventory and relationships with its suppliers.
According to a spokesman in the UK, deliveries are progressing according to agreed schedules and they have secured supply commitments and inventory in sufficient volumes to meet 2021 production plans. Those are reassuring words after the UK's chiefs of medical staff warned that vaccine shortages were a reality that couldn't be ignored.
Race to secure supply chains
Vaccine manufacturers around the world have been racing to sign up partners and secure their supply chains. Distribution problems have led to a slower than expected rollout of the vaccination programme across Europe, the UK and the USA. BioNTech have been seeking new production partners and there are currently ingredients stockpiled for 1-2 billion doses, but bottlenecks could emerge once those stockpiles diminish.
Efforts by distribution experts like Best Food Logistics remain critical in getting the newly manufactured vaccine to centres across the UK to meet the government's ambitious vaccination targets.