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Robert Jenrick Admits “There Will Be Delay” In Over 50s Getting First Vaccine Dose But Insists April Target Will Be Met

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government would still hit its target to jab every over-50 by 15 April despite Covid vaccine supply issues (Alamy)

3 min read

Issues over Covid-19 vaccine supply revealed by NHS England will result in “some delay” for the over-50s in getting their first jab, a senior Cabinet minister has admitted.

But Robert Jenrick played down the possibility of upcoming issues with doses next month, and insisted the government’s target of jabbing everyone in that cohort by 15 April will still be met.

Yesterday's news that the UK has given a first dose to more than 25 million people was overshadowed by a letter from health leaders announcing major shortages of vaccines next month. They admitted the next stage of the rollout could be delayed due to a “significant reduction” in supply from manufacturers.

The housing secretary said there was “every reason to believe that supply will increase during the months of May, June and July”, and denied issues raised in yesterday's warning will delay the roadmap for unlocking the country.

At last night’s Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock dismissed the letter as “standard”. He said the government “regularly sends out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs of the supply”.

Overnight it has been reported the issue relates to imports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India, but Jenrick suggested the problem is not due to reductions from a single nation.

"We have learned from some of our manufacturers that there are going to be some supply issues in the last few days," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"A number of global manufacturers are experiencing issues.

"It's not that there's any one factory responsible for this or any one country.”The minister was keen to suggest the target to jab every over-50 by four weeks today would not be effected.

"There will be some delay, but not in meeting our target,” he said.

Jenrick also told Sky News those with an upcoming vaccine appointment not to be worried about the upcoming shortages.

"We do think there are going to be some supply issues in the weeks ahead but this isn't anything that people should be worried about, we're still on course to meet our targets,” he said.

"Nobody who has an appointment should be concerned, you're still going to get your second vaccine, all those appointments will be honoured.

"But we always said right from the beginning that a new manufacturing process would have its lumps and bumps, that has been the case in the past and I'm sure it will be in the future."

He added plans to remove the coronavirus restrictions will not be affected, despite levels of vaccination being one of the kay data points in allowing each stage on the roadmap to be met.

"There's no reason to believe the road map is affected by this temporary shortage in supply," Jenrick told Sky News. 

"There's no concern that we are off course on the road map.”

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