Covid vaccine: Was Boris Johnson right that greed was behind UK coronavirus jab success?

Credit: PA

"It was greed, my friends." 

Such was Boris Johnson's explanation to Tory MPs for the UK's vaccine success.

It felt like we'd entered a Tardis back to the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher - an assertion that unfettered capitalism has been the UK's competitive advantage in developing and rolling out those vital Covid-19 vaccinations.

What's striking, however, is that only on Wednesday the Industrial Strategy Council - a high-powered group of experts set up by the government and chaired by the Bank of England's chief economist Andy Haldane - published a report on the successful development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in record time, and made no reference either to greed or even profit. 


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Instead, what mattered was that the government provided leadership and took financial risks that were too big and scary for the private sector.

Also there was a team effort -  based on public service rather than monetary reward - between scientists, venture capitalists, manufacturing experts, regulators, civil servants and volunteers.

Greed was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps Johnson inadvertently revealed more about his own preconceptions than about the necessary ingredients for the UK to have a prosperous future. 

And since he bangs on about "building back better", perhaps the prime minister's hard wiring needs recalibrating.