NHS Warns Of Vaccine Shortage Next Month As UK Hits 25 Million Jab Milestone
The UK has given 25 million people their first vaccine dose in just 100 days (Alamy)
News that the UK has vaccinated 25 million people was overshadowed on Wednesday after it was revealed that the NHS faces major shortages of vaccine doses next month.
In a letter seen by Sky News, health bosses admitted that the next stage of the rollout could be delayed in April due to a “significant reduction” in supply from the manufacturers.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted that the letter in question was “standard” and that the government “regularly sends out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs of the supply”.
The letter says: "The government's Vaccines Task Force have now notified us that there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning in the week commencing 29 March, meaning volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained.
"They now currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply."
It also advised vaccination sites in England not to book in anyone aged under 50 during this period, and instead to focus on vaccinating all other vulnerable groups, as well as delivering a “significantly increased numbers of second doses” as part of the rollout plan.
But Hancock downplayed the letter at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters that “vaccine supply is always lumpy”.
“We regularly send out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs of the supply over the future weeks and what you're referring to is a standard one of those letters,” he said.
He also insisted that the NHS was “on track” to meet the government’s target of offering a first dose to everyone in the top nine priority groups — including all over 50s — by 15 April, and to all adults by the end of July.
“We're making absolutely fantastic progress in the vaccination effort. I'm delighted we're able to open up to millions more people today,” he continued.
“And of course, you know, the future forecasts are always lumpy, and sometimes they go up, and sometimes they go down.”
"But we've made these public commitments and I'm absolutely delighted with the team, because we're on track to meet them."
The news came shortly after the Department of Health announced that 25 million people had received their first vaccine dose as of 16 March, while almost 1,8 million had had two doses.
It was also revealed that 95% of people aged over 65 and 90% of the clinically extremely vulnerable had received at least one dose.
The UK is now on track to vaccinate half of the 53 million adults eligible for the vaccine by the end of this week.
Hancock praised the milestone as an “extraordinary feat”, adding that it came “exactly 100 days after Margaret Keenan received the first authorised jab in the whole world”.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson said: “This latest milestone is an incredible achievement - representing 25 million reasons to be confident for the future as we cautiously reopen society.
“Thank you once again to the brilliant NHS, scientists, armed forces, volunteers, and all those who’ve helped our rollout.”
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