Budget includes billion-pound ‘shot in the arm’ for vaccine programme

Budget includes billion-pound ‘shot in the arm’ for vaccine programme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use Wednesday’s Budget to announce a further £1.65bn “shot in the arm” for the UK’s roll-out of Coivd-19 vaccines.

The announcement comes as the tally of Britons receiving their first dose of the life-saving vaccines topped 20 million – one of the highest per-capita totals in the world.

Mr Sunak will also pledge a further £33m for vaccine testing and development to protect against future outbreaks and variants, as well as £22m for a study to test the effectiveness of combining different coronavirus vaccines and determine whether a third jab can improve protection.

Speaking ahead of his 3 March statement, Mr Sunak said:“The UK’s vaccination programme has been a great success and is protecting lives and livelihoods, with over 19 million people already receiving their first dose. 

“But it’s essential we maintain this momentum.

“Protecting ourselves against the virus means we will be able to lift restrictions, reopen our economy and focus our attention on creating jobs and stimulating growth.”

The new money will bring the UK’s total spending on the vaccine programme to more than £13bn.

A report in December by the National Audit Office spending watchdog found that the UK’s push to secure and administer hundreds of millions of doses had cost up to £11.7bn up to that point. 

The government had signed deals for five vaccines providing up to 267m doses at an expected cost of £2.9bn, with non-binding agreements with two other companies set to bring total provision to 357m doses, the report said. Additional costs including those associated with sponsoring trials, distributing and administering the vaccines lifted the total spend to £11.7bn.

The new spending will include a £28m boost to UK life science to expand vaccine testing capability and the ability to rapidly acquire samples of new variants. 

It will also contain £5m for the creation of a ‘library’ of Covid-19 vaccines at the Centre for Process Innovation in Darlington that will work against different variants of the virus.

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