LONDON (Reuters) – British airline easyJet said the National Health Service (NHS) would train hundreds of its cabin crew to administer COVID-19 vaccines under a fast-track scheme designed to help boost the country’s vaccination efforts.
With a highly transmissible new variant of the virus surging across Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the country into a third lockdown and is rushing out vaccines.
The government plans to vaccinate the elderly, the vulnerable and frontline workers – around 15 million people – by mid-February and is opening up centres and recruiting volunteers to help it meet its target.
With travel at very low levels due to the lockdown, many of easyJet’s 3,000 cabin crew are not working but are both first aid trained and security cleared, making them attractive candidates to the NHS to help with the programme.
EasyJet said on Wednesday it expected hundreds of crew to sign up as vaccinators, similar numbers to last year when its staff also volunteered to support the NHS.
The airline is, like most European carriers, keen for the vaccine to be rolled out so travel can restart. Its finances have been squeezed by 10 months of minimal flying, forcing it to axe staff and take on more debt.
“The progress the country is making on the vaccination programme is an exciting and much-needed development. Once rolled out, it will enable normal life to return and is undoubtedly the key to unlocking travel again,” easyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement.
He wrote to Johnson in November offering easyJet’s help.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Estelle Shirbon)