The UK’s military will be involved in the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, Matt Hancock has told the virtual Conservative party conference.

The health secretary also said the government was preparing a campaign to challenge the anti-vaccination movement for when a vaccine is rolled out.

Asked about his hopes for a vaccine during an “interactive interview” with the anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali, he said it was “the great hope”, agreeing with Boris Johnson, who on Sunday morning told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that the public could expect some “bumpy months” ahead.

“The plans are in train, a combination of the NHS and the armed forces are involved in the logistics of making the [vaccine] rollout happen, because it’s not just about developing and testing the vaccine,” he said.

He also revealed the Covid-19 app that launched on 24 September, more than four months later than initially promised, had been downloaded 15m times.

The app for England and Wales, which uses the bluetooth signal in mobile phones to track close and sustained contact between users and warns those who may have been exposed to an infectious person that they should self-isolate, had “gone off the shelf like digital hotcakes”, Hancock said.

In a separate interview later, he revealed the government’s plans to tackle the anti-vaccination movement and persuade people to take the vaccine.

“Sadly there are a small number of people who make an active case against vaccines based on misinformation,” he said, adding that the government would introduce a “counter narrative … to explain the importance and safety of vaccines” based on previous experience of “tackling misinformation in other fields”.

“There’s a huge amount of work going on … to tackle misinformation about the vaccine because after all, if a vaccine is successfully brought, to be able to be used, it will have such a positive impact on on everybody’s life,” he said.

He said the priority recipients of a vaccine would be decided by the independent joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, which last week published draft advice prioritising older adults in care homes and care home staff, people aged over 80 and health and social care workers.

In his interview with Ali, Hancock said he wanted to see a greater sense of shared responsibility between individuals and the NHS for preventing people falling ill.

“I think for too long the NHS has [been] picking up the pieces when things go wrong and instead we need more of a sense of shared responsibility – individual people, everybody, responsible for their own health as well as the NHS taking responsibility to keep people healthy in the first place,” he said.

As well as presenting unprecedented challenges, the pandemic had also proved that positive change could happen very quickly, said Hancock. He added that, while people should be able to get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor if they wanted to, video consultations were “more convenient and easier” for many people. About 50% of visits to the GP and 50% of outpatient visits were done by telemedicine, up from less than 10% before the crisis, he said. “It’s good for patients, it’s good for doctors.”


Alexandra Topping and Lisa O'Carroll

The GuardianTramp

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