TESCO has offered to help with the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines as part of a race to vaccinate millions of Brits before Easter.
The supermarket’s subsidiary Best Food Logistics has offered ministers its network of refrigerated lorries and warehouses.
It comes as the newly approved coronavirus vaccine by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is set to be rolled out from this Monday.
Best – a trade distributor owned by Tesco division Booker Group – has spare capacity as a majority of UK pubs and restaurants are shut due to restrictions and is seeking to put this to use.
It’s crucial that the vaccines are kept in the right temperature and unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Oxford one can stored in a standard fridge.
Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people, with 530,000 doses available from January 4.
Along with the 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, the UK now has enough doses ordered to vaccinate the entire population, Matt Hancock has said.
Alongside Tesco, hotels and conference centres have also offered to open up their venues to be used as sites for mass vaccinations to be carried out.
The government is yet to respond to the support being offered, which comes as industry experts have raised concerns over how quickly the NHS can complete vaccinations without external help.
Richard Wilding, professor of supply chain logistics at Cranfield School of Management, told The Sun: “The chilled food supply chain had conversations a month ago about helping out with vaccine distribution in anticipation of approval of this vaccine.
“I’m not sure if the NHS has the existing capacity to handle moving 100million doses very quickly.
“I would expect to see logistics experts from the military who can cut through the politics brought in to help, and also commercial operators which would allow distribution to be ramped up very quickly.
“I believe working together they can get the vaccine out to everyone who needs it within a few months.
“There’s a real opportunity here to come together and do this.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, told The Telegraph that the industry is eager to help deliver jabs, estimating that up to 3,000 hotels, conference and exhibition centres could act as vaccination centres.
In November, experts predicted that the UK economy could recover from coronavirus by the summer following vaccine hope.
The hope is that vaccines will mean that lockdown restrictions can be lifted, ending the massive strain on UK businesses.
Tesco didn’t comment when contacted by The Sun today, but confirmed that Best Food Logistics has offered to support in any way it can.
The Sun has also contacted the Ministry of Health for comment.
Just yesterday, the FTSE 100 edged higher after Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine was approved by regulators.
The FTSE had previously climbed on November 23 after the AstraZeneca vaccine was first found to be 70% effective in clinical trials.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has previously said he believes 2021 will be a “new era” for Britain following the vaccine news.