EU: Former health secretary grilled on stored vaccine doses
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Vaccine rollout has gone well in the UK so far, with nearly 50 percent of the national population now at least partially inoculated. One dose of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna jabs should reduce the incidence of Covid-19 by up to 60 percent. Health workers will soon start administering the jab to under 50s, despite fears the supply won’t meet Government expectations.
Is there a vaccine shortage in the UK?
The UK’s effective vaccine programme initially came from procurement, with vast stores of available jabs secured early on.
Since then, health workers have rapidly administered the approved jabs, building immunity and affecting death rates.
The next stage on the Government’s proposed roadmap would cover people aged 50 and over, but as Health minister Matt Hancock announced the good news yesterday, the NHS warned of an incoming vaccine shortage.
In a letter to local health organisations, NHS England leaders warned supply could falter in the coming weeks.
They said the Government’s Vaccine Task Force has “now notified us that there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply”.
The shortage will take effect from “the week commencing 29 March” and could significantly constrain first dose volumes.
The letter added the shortage could continue for weeks into April.
The leaders wrote: “They now currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply.”
The letter said workers should focus on vaccinating everyone in the nine most vulnerable cohorts.
They are the most vulnerable to the disease, meaning they should have supplies earmarked for them.
The leaders also committed to “significantly increased” numbers of second doses starting next month.
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Speaking yesterday, Mr Hancock played down the announcement, however.
In a Downing Street conference, he said the notice was just a “technical letter”.
He added it explains the “ups and downs of vaccine supply over the future weeks”.
Ultimately, according to the Secretary of State, “vaccine supply is always lumpy.”
The expected shortage is not a result of EU proposed action on vaccine exports.
EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said she wanted to ensure “reciprocity” between the bloc and the UK but has not yet imposed any bans.
She said: “If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness.
“We will reflect on whether exports to countries with higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”
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