Warning to health chiefs over a vaccine shortfall after supply delays
Health leaders across the country have been told to expect a significant shortfall in vaccine doses next month after a delay in deliveries from India.
A delay in deliveries from India and the need to retest a batch of 1.7 million doses is behind an expected shortfall in coronavirus vaccine supply in April, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary told MPs that a partnership with the Serum Institute of India is one the UK "can be proud of", despite a delay in deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine from its plant.
NHS England told health leaders on Wednesday to expect a significant shortfall in vaccine doses from March 29 for about four weeks.
It said people under 50 should not be booked in for first appointments unless they fell into a higher priority group, such as being clinically vulnerable.
The move means the under-50s could now have to wait until May to get a vaccination, despite doctors having planned to start on that group in April, Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs has said.
He said: "The impact of this shortage of supplies will happen on the group that we were hoping to start on in April, which is the people under the age of 50 without any pre-existing conditions, who are now going to have to wait until May."
In the week ending March 14, NHS England said that an additional 1,698,869 people were reported to have received an NHS vaccination for COVID-19 in England. This took the total number of people vaccinated with at least one dose as of March 14 to 20,661,496 (45.4% of the population aged 16 and over).
Including second doses, the Leeds figure currently stands at 302,167 according to the NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group.
In the Commons, Mr Hancock said that a batch of 1.7 million doses of vaccine had been delayed in the last week due to the need to retest its stability.
"Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity and this shows the rigour of our safety checks," he said.
Mr Hancock said second doses for people would be prioritised in April, and there would also be some first doses, but did not make clear for which groups.
He added: "There will be no weeks in April with no first doses. There will be no cancelled appointments as a result of supply issues - second doses will go ahead as planned."