Specialist teams from the Armed Forces are on stand-by to fly coronavirus vaccines to remote rural areas of the country in helicopters if winter storms or floods delay the mass vaccination plan.
Twenty one Quick Reaction Force teams comprising six doctors, nurses and vaccinators from the Army will be able to fly vaccines to rural and hard-to-reach areas of England to administer them to local communities from Monday when the NHS’s vaccine deployment plan is published.
The Armed Forces are also assisting Welsh’ health boards with vaccinations while talks are now underway with devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland about expanding the mobile vaccination service there beyond just planning and logistics.
The new units are expected to be sent across England whenever and wherever they are needed as the Government prepares for the possibility of winter and spring floods which could threaten the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.
Brigadier Phil Prosser, Commander of 101 Logistic Brigade and Commander of the Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Programme told The Telegraph: “We are working up and down the UK, with 90 service personnel already deployed in Wales, to establish and operate vaccination centres and administer vaccines. The Armed Forces remain on standby to deploy further teams whenever and wherever they are needed.
"A national vaccination programme at this scale has not been done before and our contribution is also one of the largest military operations in peacetime but I know that together, as one team alongside our NHS colleagues, we will help this country return to the way of life we knew and cherished.”
The 130 personnel in the Quick Reaction Force are working on a ‘surge capacity’ which means that the NHS’s seven regions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can request their help if they need it.
The Force is made of 21 teams, three for each of the seven NHS regions. Each region is given a Medical Support Officer to coordinate the teams’ local work with the Joint Medical Centre.
Ben Wallace, the Defence secretary, has made clear that the number of teams can be increased by more than tenfold to 250 if required.
Each of the teams comprises a medical officer, or nurse prescriber, two registered healthcare workers who can gain consent for the vaccine and administer doses and three vaccinators.
Around 5,000 military personnel are deployed to support the Covid-19 response across the UK and overseas, with a further 12,000 are held at readiness to provide further support if required.
Vaccination rates scenarios
The deployed personnel, from across all three Armed Forces, are helping local authorities and other government departments to respond to this global health crisis.
Tasks include the vaccine rollout, supporting the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust with 94 drivers and medics, and community testing.
Brig Prosser added: “Throughout the pandemic the UK Armed Forces have supported our NHS colleagues and we are all humbled and proud to be working on the frontline alongside them.
“Our people from across the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force are supporting the Covid-19 response by using unique military planning techniques, tried and tested on previous operations in the UK and abroad, to deliver command and control to activity on the ground, ensuring performance targets are met and resources are allocated to where they are needed most."