Boris Johnson U-Turns On 24/7 Covid Vaccines And Promises They Will Available “As Soon As We Can”
Boris Johnson said the government would start offering coronavirus vaccines 24/7 (PA)
Boris Johnson has promised to start offering coronavirus vaccines round the clock “as soon as we can” after pressure to speed up the rollout.
Earlier this week Downing Street said the government was not planning to offer jabs 24/7, saying there was “no clamour” for appointments beyond the current cut-off point of 8pm.
But at Prime Minister’s Questions today Mr Johnson reversed that position in response pressure by Sir Keir Starmer, but did not give specific details.
The Labour leader opened the Commons session by saying: "I welcome news that has come out this morning about a pilot of 24/7 vaccine centres – I anticipate there is going to be huge clamour for this.
"So, can the Prime Minister tell us when will the 24/7 vaccine centres be open to the public, because I understand they are not at the moment, and when will they be rolled out across the country?"
The PM replied: "I can tell [Sir Keir] that we'll be going to 24/7 as soon as we can and [Matt Hancock] will be setting out more about that in due course.
"As he rightly says, at the moment the limit is on supply.”
On Monday Mr Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said there was no demand for all-night Covid-19 vaccinations, telling reporters: “If you go and have a chat with the NHS, they will say that when they are asking people who are being offered vaccinations, and they’re asking what time it would suit them, if people say they would love an appointment after 8pm, then that is something that they will consider.
“My understanding is that, at the the moment, there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night or early in the morning.
“If that was the case then it was something the NHS would consider.”
The government’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has admitted the initial vaccination supply had been “lumpy” after reports from GP surgeries they could not get hold of any doses.
But he told the Commons Science and Technology Committee it is “getting better”, adding: "I now have line of sight of deliveries all the way through until end of February and getting more confidence about March as well.
"We have millions of doses coming through in the weeks and then next month and the month after.”
However, he was criticised for refusing to give week-by-week figures on how many vaccine doses are expected to be delivered.
“First of all, there is a series of tests that batches that are manufactured go through by the manufacturer,” Mr Zahawi said.
"Then there is a test by the regulator, which is again a batch test at the end of that process for quality control.
"Batches could move week by week because a batch may fail and then another batch comes.
"So it would be, I think, misleading this committee and the House to sort of say, 'oh, this is what we're getting this week', because they actually do move around. It's part of this supply chain challenge that we have.”
He was accused by Labour MP Graham Stringer of being "phobic" to numbers and needlessly secretive on the data, but the minister said "this idea that we are sitting on lots of stock is not true", adding deliveries from the manufacturer were still unpredictable.
The chief executive of one of the two companies currently supplying a version of the vaccine had earlier told the same committee they are "imminently" scaling up to release two million doses of its vaccine per week in the UK “on or before the middle of February”.
Tom Keith-Roach from AstraZeneca said: "If we average two million a week through the course of the year, that gets us to the 100 million doses that we're committed to the UK through the course of 2021."
However, he later said the firm had been asked by the UK Vaccines Taskforce "not to share in public forum in detail daily delivery schedules and locations for security reasons”.