A HUGE security operation is being mounted to guard the Covid-19 vaccines from criminal gangs.
Intelligence agencies and security services have warned ministers about organised syndicates planning to intercept the precious treatments.
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A lorry leaves Pfizer Manufacturing in Puurs, Belgium, for the UK this past WednesdayCredit: AP:Associated Press
Supplies of the “liquid gold” jabs will start to be distributed tomorrow.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite the complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday.”
Hi-tech trucks have been equipped with satellite GPS tracking, locking systems and alarms as they prepare to dispatch the first of 800,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses to three locations in the next 48 hours.
Data will be beamed to a central monitoring station to ensure the shipments are not compromised as they head to 50 hospital hubs.
The first immunisation jabs came here from Belgium on Thursday.
Around 14,000 troops are on stand-by to provide a military ring of steel assisting the whole of Operation Courageous.
Interpol have sent a global warning to police in 194 countries over fears that raids will be launched.
The organisation’s secretary general Jurgen Stock said: “Criminal organisations are planning to disrupt supply chains.
“High demand combined with a limited supply will make Covid-19 vaccines the equivalent of ‘liquid gold’ to organised crime networks.”
Hi-tech trucks transporting the vaccine are equipped with satellite GPS tracking, locking systems and alarmsCredit: AP:Associated Press
Distribution of the first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine starts tomorrow Credit: Reuters
The Government has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for 20 million peopleCredit: Reuters
And former Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley cautioned that vehicles could be “hijacked and a ransom demand made”.
Sources said the National Crime Agency, MI5 and MI6 are all involved in being consulted.
A defence source said the RAF was waiting for the NHS to ask for “logistics assistance” with the vaccines’ distribution and security.
Its fleet of C-17 Globemasters are ready to fly from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to bring container-loads of vaccines to the UK.
The NHS and Public Health England will base their distribution on systems used in the national immunisation programme.
The vaccine — said to be 95 per cent effective — will be thawed at the hospital hubs over several hours. More time still is then needed to prepare it for injection.
People aged 80 and over, along with care home workers, will be the first to receive it.
Vaccination centres operated by GPs will allow the roll-out to take place from December 14.
Anyone vaccinated will have to have a booster jab 21 days later.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “It’s a great moment for science and for the UK. We’ve been preparing for months and now we’re ready to go.”
GPs are being inundated by calls for the jabs and health chiefs are pleading with people to be patient.
The Government has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for 20 million people.
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