Vaccine manufacturers have rubbished claims made by ministers that a Covid vaccine shortage was “limiting” the inoculation programme, and insist that millions of doses have already been delivered to the NHS.
It comes after ministers and the UK’s chief medical officers warned that shortages in the supply of vaccines is a global issue and a “reality that cannot be wished away”.
Boris Johnson said earlier this week that supply would be the “rate-limiting factor” that could hinder the NHS’s ability to deliver the vaccines quickly, not distribution.
Currently, the NHS is doling out 250,000 jabs per week, and is confident it can exceed two million a week by February. NHS England medical director, Stephen Powis, said: “Our aim is to get the jab into people’s arms as quickly as the manufacturers can supply that vaccine to us.”
But both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have insisted there was no problem with supply, with Pfizer saying it has now sent millions of doses to the UK, reports The Daily Telegraph. These include one million jabs that were destined as the second dose for people who have already received their first jab – which will now be delayed following a change in policy.
According to the newspaper, more than one million Pfizer jabs could be administered over the next week, along with 530,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine. The latter received approval for use in the UK on 30 December.
By the middle of January, two million doses of the Oxford vaccine will be supplied each week, a member of the Oxford/AstraZeneca team told The Times.
The source said that by next week, there would be two million jabs ready in total, and the manufacturer plans to “build it up fairly rapidly” to two million doses per week by the third week of January.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, has said before that the manufacturer would be able to provide “one million doses and beyond per week”.
The row over vaccines come as GPs cancelled tens of thousands of appointments for a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at short notice, after the government’s vaccination experts and medicines regulators decided to delay the follow-up jab to 12 weeks after the first dose has been given.
The change in policy is meant to ensure that as many people as possible get a first dose of either approved vaccine, with the UK’s chief medical officers saying the first dose offers “substantial” protection.