UK govt appoints vaccine rollout minister

The UK government has appointed Nadhim Zahawi, an MP for Stratford-on-Avon, as a new health minister to oversee rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in England, Downing Street announced.

“The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi MP as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care,” Xinhua news agency quoted Downing Street as saying in a statement on Saturday.

In a tweet, Zahawi welcomed his new post, saying: “Delighted to have been asked by (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson to become the Minister for Covid vaccine deployment.

“A big responsibility and a big operational challenge but absolutely committed to making sure we can roll out vaccines quickly-saving lives and livelihoods and helping us build back better.”

Under the interim arrangement, Zahawi will serve as a joint minister between the health department and the business department, where he currently works, reports the BBC.

His primary focus will be on delivering the vaccine, with most areas of his business portfolio put aside.

Zahawi will look after deployment of the vaccine in England only, but will work with the devolved administrations on their chosen approach.

Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be responsible for the vaccine’s distribution in their relevant nations.

Zahawi’s appointment comes as a further 479 deaths were reported in the UK on Saturday, bringing the total to 58,030.

There were also a further 15,871 positive cases registered in the past 24 hours, which increased the overall infection tally to 1,609,141.

Currently, the UK government has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech and five million doses from US firm Moderna.