The Health Secretary was struck off by the media last year as the crisis escalated, but in an interview with the Financial Times he expressed optimism that Britain is finally coming out of obscurity a year on. the first lock.
New research, he revealed, suggests more than 6,000 lives had been saved thanks to the vaccines as of the end of February.
He also insisted Britain had the law on its side in a dispute with the EU over vaccines, asserting the supremacy of a UK contract with AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company at the center of the effort. vaccination, on an agreement reached by the bloc.
“They have a ‘best efforts’ contract and we have an exclusivity agreement,” he said. And he rushed to the defense of AstraZeneca, which, he insisted, had been “absolutely brilliant” in the face of international controversy.
The Anglo-Swedish company, which manufactures the vaccine developed at the University of Oxford, has gone from one crisis to another as it battles criticism from the EU and the United States. For Hancock, however, “they have been placed in a geopolitical position. It’s difficult for any business ”.
And despite a vaccine shortage in the UK in April and the threat of an EU export ban on jabs made in the bloc, Hancock said he was “very confident” there was enough supplies to ensure that all Britons will receive their second dose of Covid-19 on time.
Britain’s death toll of over 126,000 from Covid-19 is one of the worst in the world. When asked if he could see an end to the crisis, Hancock replied, “It depends on what you mean by ‘end’. I see an end where Covid is managed more like the flu: we vaccinate several times, we update the vaccines according to the mutations and we manage the challenges, especially around transmissions in winter.
“I have no doubts that this is where we can come from. I want to get to a position where we can have an updated vaccine in a matter of weeks or months, not a year. ”
During the first months of the pandemic, Hancock struggled to respond and the vaccine procurement process was handed over to a government task force outside of his health department.
Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, told MPs this month that Hancock’s department was ‘a smoldering ruin’ as he tried to secure personal protective equipment for NHS workers.
Hancock shrugged at Cummings’ criticism and insisted the health department had done “an incredible job” over the past year as part of a “massive team effort”.
The rapid rollout of vaccines in the UK compared to many other countries this year has taken the pressure off Hancock. Since Christmas, he said, “half of my life has been devoted to one of the best projects this country has ever done.”
While questions about the government’s handling of the pandemic will need to be answered in a future investigation, Hancock prefers to look forward rather than back. He has an avalanche of plans, including reform of public health agencies and, belatedly, social care.
On Wednesday he announced proposals for a new UK health security agency, replacing the discredited Public Health England, which would be headed by Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer.
The body, which will be created on April 1, will be responsible for combating Covid-19 and dealing with future health threats. Hancock, a former Bank of England economist, compared it to the regulatory architecture put in place to avoid a repeat of the 2008 global financial crash.
He said the UK could become the leading European center for life sciences. “We will make it impossible to choose another location to place your life science manufacturing in the European time zone.”
His argument to potential investors is that Britain, unlike the EU, would never threaten to ban exports of vaccines or their components. “You can export anywhere in the world and we’re never going to stop it,” he said.
Hancock revealed that a new analysis, conducted by the University of Warwick, which was trying to disentangle the effects of the lockdown from the impact of the UK vaccination program, suggests some 6,600 lives have been saved across all age groups at the end of February.
But he admitted that the risk of new variants emerging was “a concern” and that it was “too early to say” whether summer vacation abroad this year will be possible. He’s booked a break in Cornwall.
“If the data shows that all vaccines work against all of the newer variants, it makes it easier for everyone,” Hancock said. A “global travel task force” set up by the government will report on the possibility of vacation abroad on April 5.
Meanwhile, Hancock has raised the idea that workers with elderly people in nursing homes should be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
He noted that doctors were already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. Although no decision has been made to pass a law extending the same requirement to caregivers for Covid-19 vaccines, he added: “We will get to the point where it is reasonable to ask people to get vaccinated.”
After a year in which he succumbed to the virus and was hunched over for many months for the sack, Hancock said the response to members of the public’s immunization program had been “just wonderful, so joyful.”
“People text me all the time with pictures of themselves getting the shot, usually with their top on!”