Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol
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Every adult will be offered at least one jab by around June 10, beating the government’s target of the end of July, the research company Airfinity estimates. The EU as a whole is forecast to reach the same milestone by the first week of August.
Germany is set to hit the target by July 7, while France is not likely to reach the same point until early August.
Imperial College London estimated that lockdown costs up to £18billion a month – allowing the early release date to earn the UK up to an extra £36billion – when compared with the EU’s ability to be able to relax rules.
The research confirms the advantage secured by Britain after the government chose not to join the EU’s vaccine procurement scheme.
Its position partly reflects the decision to prioritise first doses and delay booster shots, a strategy not initially followed on the continent.
Instead, Britain made its own deals while investing in domestic manufacturing and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
A separate estimate by Dr Katharina Hauck, of Imperial College London, suggests that lockdown costs the UK at least £18 billion a month in GDP.
This calculates that the vaccination campaign, thought to cost £12 billion, will pay for itself by the end of the summer.
Lockdown restrictions are planned to end on June 21, as long as the vaccine continues to be successful and hospital admissions stay in check.
This depends on vaccine supplies increasing, with Britain getting its first jabs from Moderna, Janssen and Novavax before the summer.
Production setbacks or delays in regulatory clearance could cause the dates to slip.
Robert Yates, a former senior health economist for the World Health Organisation who is now at the Chatham House think tank, said: “The vaccine issue is highly political and there continues to be this race among western nations to be seen to be ahead.”
Mr Johnson was hoping to “pull a rabbit out of a hat and gloss over the [UK’s] failings earlier on”, he added.
The government’s target is to offer all adults a first jab by the end of July.
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Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said last week that a date in June was possible, adding: “There’s no reason why we can’t be optimistic”.
The Imperial College estimate suggests that the cost of stringent lockdown is as much as £37 billion a month in lost GDP, based on the damage to the economy last spring.
However, Dr Hauck emphasised that there was a high degree of uncertainty.
She told The Times: “The estimate £37 billion is high because it is based on the very optimistic assessment that the economy would function as normal if we had no lockdown.
“In reality, a catastrophic pandemic would likely result in drastic changes to economic output and cause consumers and businesses to buy and produce less goods and services.
“But even if the cost of the full lockdown is half of that estimate, about £18 billion, then a vaccination programme costing £12 billion would be cost-saving if we avoided just one month of stringent lockdown.”
Official figures released yesterday suggested that the latest lockdown has caused less economic damage than expected, with the economy shrinking by 2.9 percent in January.
This was below forecasts for a 4.9 percent decline and a fraction of the 18.3 percent collapse in April last year, the last time that schools were ordered to close.
The Airfinity forecast assumes that nearly two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and about 600,000 of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine will be administered on average each week.
An additional 90,000 doses would come from Moderna each week, starting next month.
For the second quarter of the year, there would also be an average of about a million doses a week from Novavax and 254,000 from Janssen.
If overall supply increased by 10 percent, every adult could receive one dose by June 2 and if it increased by 25 percent the date would be May 25.
If supplies decreased by 10 percent the date would slip to June 28. If they fell by 25 percent it would be August 4.
The estimates are for how long it will take each country to give at least one dose to 75 percent of its population.
Rasmus Hansen, the chief executive of Airfinity, said that the EU fell behind Britain in part because it made the mistake of viewing vaccination “as a pure procurement challenge: “we just need to buy some vaccines at good prices.”
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