Sir John Bell, regius chair of medicine at the University of Oxford and adviser to the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, has said the UK government should be reacting to Covid-19 as if to an enemy invading the country, referencing Israel’s highly successful mass vaccination programme.
Levelling criticism at bureaucracy slowing down the roll-out, the professor said last week in an interview with The Times, “People have rightly pointed to the Israelis, who have managed to immunise lots of people. You have to view it as if it were a war. The Israelis are good at getting on a war footing – everyone is waiting for the 2am call anyway. Here it is not clear whether it’s a national security issue, but it is. The economic impact is as bad as any war. “
Since the comments, the UK has confirmed it has sought advice from Israel to speed up the inoculations resulting in measures such as the opening of seven giant vaccination centres across England to boost numbers and streamline the process.
The UK’s vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Israeli process meant that it took just four minutes for each patient to get the jab, which had informed Westminster’s focus on the “high throughput” facilities unveiled this week.
“One of the things we learned is the speed at which they can actually vaccinate people,” Zahawi told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“We want to make sure that we get to similar speeds. They at about four minutes per patient. That’s the sort of target we want to make sure we deliver on. At this stage it’s a race against time.”
A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in London has confirmed that the two countries were working together on vaccine programmes.
“Israel and the UK are continuing to share best practices on all levels,” she said. “Just last week [Health Secretary] Matt Hancock spoke with [Israeli Health Minister] Yuli Edelstein and discussed best practices and future cooperation in fighting the pandemic and vaccination programmes in both countries.”
It comes after data revealed Israel is the leading country in vaccinating its population. Per 100 people, figures show Israel has inoculated 21.4 doses compared with the UK in fourth place behind UAE and Bahrain, administering 3.9.