Health Secretary Matt Hancock said vaccine supply was ‘always lumpy’.
NHS warnings that vaccine supplies will drop significantly from the end of March can make the timeline for lifting lockdown restrictions slowed down. NHS officials said this slowdown means people under the age of 50 should only get the jab if they are in a priority group.
Significant vaccine shortage, return to freedom could be delayed
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor at the University of Reading, said, “It will undoubtedly make the meeting of the target dates for lifting restrictions more difficult than they otherwise would have been. By pushing back the under-50s first doses, their second doses are also being pushed back. If full vaccination becomes required for holidays abroad or even more mundane things like going to the cinema, millions of younger people may end up being excluded from participating for the whole summer.” He added that ripple effects could continue for months.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said vaccine supply was ‘always lumpy’. However, he ordered the nation was on track to meet the target of offering the first dose to all over-50s by April 15. Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth pushed Mr Hancock to describe why there were issues with supply and how the Government will fix them.
In the NHS letter signed by Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director for primary care for the NHS in England and Emily Lawson, chief commercial officer, local health leaders were told to focus on vaccinating the top priority groups.
The letter also explained the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of decreases in national inbound vaccines supply. It added, “Those aged 49 years or younger should not be offered vaccination unless they are eligible via a higher cohort because they are e.g., clinically vulnerable, unpaid career or frontline health and care workers.”
A Pfizer spokeswoman said deliveries settle on track for the first quarter of its 40 million dose agreement with the UK, with a ‘steady supply of vaccines’ delivered to the nation. Meanwhile, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the UK domestic supply chain is not experiencing any disruption and there is no impact on their delivery schedule.