Local leaders in Birmingham have warned that the city has not been supplied with enough Covid-19 vaccines, with current stocks due to “run out” on Friday.
Leaders have said that the city doesn’t have enough of the Oxford jab, while its supplies of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to be used up by the end of this week, with “no clarity” over when further stock will arrive.
In an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward has called for exact data on constituency vaccination numbers to be shared with local officials.
The letter has demanded “urgent clarity and reassurance” regarding the vaccination rollout across the city over the coming weeks and months, and asked for data on take-up and refusals of the jab to highlight any areas where resistance needs to be addressed.
Local leaders have also asked for a realistic forecast of how many vaccinations are expected to be administered in the coming weeks, along with assurances that supplies of vaccines will keep pace with demand.
The letter read: “It is clear that we are expected and will be expected to know the answer to a rolling series of questions, and we are clear that this is information that we should have, and which must be collected.
“We acknowledge that the vaccination rollout is in its early days but we have also learned today that Birmingham has not yet been supplied with any AstraZeneca stock, while current Pfizer stocks are scheduled to run out on Friday this week with currently no clarity on when further supplies will arrive.
“It remains unclear who is responsible for overseeing the vaccination programme in Birmingham and whom we should hold to account for progress and delivery. I am sure you would agree that such a lack of transparency is unhelpful and frustrating.
“As members of Parliament throughout Britain’s second city we are absolutely clear that we need the following information on a constituency-by-constituency basis and hope that we may look to you as Secretary of State to make sure that we receive it.”
The letter is signed by Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward, Liam Byrne MP, Labour's candidate for the West Midlands mayor, and by Conservative MP and ex-minister, Andrew Mitchell.
Oxford rollout now underway
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use on 30 December and began its rollout to English hospitals on Monday (4 January) as part of the NHS’s vaccination programme, although it only reached GPs in England on Thursday (7 January).
Deliveries are now being made to hundreds of local vaccination centres across the country and it is hoped that around 1,000 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.
In Birmingham, there are 17 vaccination centres in the region meaning there should be a vaccine available if supplies of the Pfizer vaccine do run out.
Seven new mass vaccination hubs are also due to open across England next week, at venues based in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.
Officials leading the vaccination programme have assured that the rollout is going to plan and the UK has now vaccinated more per head of the population than any other country, apart from Israel and Bahrain.
Around 1.3 million people have already received either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
The UK government is aiming to vaccinate 13 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February, with a goal of two million per week, in the hopes the mass rollout will allow current lockdown restrictions to be eased.
Ministers have already decided, in a move queried by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to administer the first jab to as many priority patients as possible by delaying a second shot.The second jab will now be given up to 12 weeks later to prevent current supplies from being held back.