RAF on mission to vaccinate entire Ascension Island in one swoop
Aircraft failure almost derailed the ambitious jab campaign
The RAF has launched a mission to make the population of a British Overseas Territory the first in the world to all be vaccinated against Covid-19 in one hit.
In a project described by The Telegraph as a “daring race”, an RAF A400M Atlas yesterday airlifted a cargo containing 2,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Brize Norton military base on Oxfordshire to Ascension Island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The ambitious plan is part of Operation Broadshare, a British military push to fight the pandemic overseas, and is aimed at keeping the island Covid free.
But the latest launch was almost derailed when a faulty plane caused a 24-hour delay.
“Timing of the vaccine is crucial” as once removed from refrigeration, the jabs must be administered within three days, the paper continues. But “with just 72 hours to transport the precious cargo”, the A400M Atlas “failed to start” in a malfunction that “crew on the ground were unable to sort”.
The cargo was speedily repacked onto a second plane, before departing the next morning, with 48 hours left on the clock. Flying Officer George Cox, who helped prepare the aircraft, said: “We are always agile and mobile in our responses, repurposing all of the equipment we have for defence and that does extend through to the cargo hangar.”
The jet landed on on the island’s “battered airstrip” on Wednesday, with front-line medical workers and the island’s five police officers then among the first to get their shots, The Sun reports. The remainder of the island’s 900 residents, “many of whom are military personnel or spies”, are due to get their vaccines within days.
Wing Commander Lee Roberts, who oversaw the delivery flight, told The Telegraph that “the guys are really proud, they are buzzing”.
“You could just call it another logistical move but it’s more than that due to the vital strategic importance to the government,” he added.