The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been given approval to be rolled out across the UK as early as next week. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, with 800,000 doses expected to arrive by next week.
But storage facilities have been kept secret amid mounting fears the “liquid gold” vaccine will attract criminal gangs.
Jurgen Stock, secretary-general of Interpol, warned: “As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organisations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains.
“It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
He added “high demand combined with a limited supply” will make the vaccines the “equivalent of liquid gold” to organised crime networks.
This week, the National Cyber Security Centre warned Britons to be aware of cybercriminals offering fake, quick routes to the front of the vaccine queue.
Of the vaccine, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.
“The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large-scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.
“To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed.”
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The speed of the MHRA to roll out a vaccine was criticised by Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases official, who said they had worked “superficially” and “rushed”.
But hours later, he retracted his comments and told the BBC: “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.
“I did not mean to apply any sloppiness [to the UK regulatory process] even though it came out that way.”
While a vaccine is a sign of relief during the ongoing pandemic, a recent YouGov poll found as many as one in five people in Britain would be reluctant to have the jab.
Although the elderly are the first in the queue to have the vaccine, Professor Dominic Harrison urged deprived regions should be next in line,
Professor Harrison, director of public health for Blackburn and Darwen, said: “Structural factors generate a much bigger population risk that is very hard to mitigate through short term cycles of high levels of COVID control measures.
“There are at least 10 local authorities with similar profiles of all those four drivers of high risk, and the danger is that however well we manage COVID, we cannot compensate for that bigger hill we have to climb compared to everybody else.”
The UK has been one of the worst-hit countries in Europe with total cases surpassing one million.
While deaths have reached a staggering 60,617.