Boris Johnson has appointed Nadhim Zahawi as a health minister responsible for the deployment of coronavirus vaccines as hopes rise that some doses could be rolled out before Christmas.

Downing Street revealed in a statement on Saturday that the Stratford-on-Avon MP, who already serves as a business minister, would take on the role until at least next summer.

He will temporarily relinquish responsibility for most areas of his brief at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis).

A statement read: ‘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.



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‘He remains a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.’

The appointment comes as scientists return with positive results for several vaccine candidates, sparking hope in millions of people who have lived under tight restrictions for eight months.

The UK Government has placed an order for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, with a rollout expected soon if the jab is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The experts responsible for the vaccine recently announced they are likely to carry out further trials after a mistake with dosing produced a surprise result.

Some volunteers were given a half dose followed by a full dose, which improved the effectiveness of the jab and increased it to 90% protection.

AstraZeneca has insisted any additional trials would not hold up regulatory approval in any country.

The UK has also requested 40 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech and five million doses from US firm Moderna, with both vaccine candidates said to be 95% effective.

Rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may pose the greatest challenge as it needs to be stored at minus 70C – bringing potential difficulties with transport and storage.

Labour welcomed the announcement of a vaccine minister today after the party previously called for one to be appointed immediately.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Only days ago Labour called for a vaccines minister to oversee the huge logistical challenge of widespread vaccination.

‘We now need a mass public health campaign urging uptake of the vaccine, alongside ensuring the resources are in place for GPs and other health professionals to rapidly roll this out as soon as possible.’

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