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As anyone knows who has had their two injections for their covid-19 vaccination, the public-facing side of the UK’s vaccine programme is in a variety of places – town halls, football stadiums, pharmacies. Whether public or private sector, and however many people are passing through – perhaps 1800 in a day – all the sites have something in common: they were not built for such a throughput of people, and as a healthcare setting. They have required security, whether a site review, advice to workers on site, or marshalling, as the Association of Security Consultants (ASC) heard in a webinar last week.
One of the themes stressed by speakers was how the ‘awesome’ programme had to work ‘at pace’, from the approval of the first vaccine to the setting up and running of the first places to deliver vaccines to the most vulnerable, the over-80s, in December, to world interest. Security had to fit in with that pace.
The webinar heard that if anything security becomes more important with time as the programme has more data – of who’s been vaccinated, with what vaccine, where and when: and the integrity and availability of that data has to be protected. Thus one of the three main risks that the webinar heard about is cyber: protection from ransomware attacks.
The second is physical theft of the kit of vaccination – just as PPE (face masks and so on) was at risk of theft as soon as the pandemic struck in spring 2020, so not only the actual doses of vaccine but even the waste for removal and disposal has to be secured, so that it’s not misused by organised crime, seeking to sell bogus vaccines; part of a larger effort by scammers to profit from the pandemic by selling sub-standard or outright fake products.
And thirdly, the programme has to guard against dis- and mis-information. The webinar heard that just as a cyber attack on the programme would be a ‘national security’ issue, so the authorities are monitoring (with social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram) what’s said about vaccination. Factually incorrect statements are taken down by such media firms.
As featured in the March print edition of Professional Security magazine, anti-vaccine and related anti-covid conspiracy theorists have visited hospitals, defying social distancing and covid guidelines, looking for proof and to broadcast their belief that the pandemic is a hoax. The webinar heard that St Thomas Hospital in central London – a particular magnet for such protest as it is beside Westminster Bridge and across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament – has had to set up Heras perimeter fencing. The NHS Trust has faced (at any time of day or night) anti-covid demonstrators including with loud-hailers. Guy’s Hospital was among the first to offer a coronavirus vaccine; and among its VIP guests and patients have been Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The ASC’s next event is also virtual; its next business group meeting, although the association does hope to gather in person: at its awards dinner; its annual conference Consec, at Twickenham Stadium, west London, on October 21; and an annual dinner at the House of Lords in December. Visit https://securityconsultants.org.uk/member-events.
Picture by Mark Rowe; anti-vaccine label on public noticeboard, Whitby.