- UK officials have said the country will face a drop in supplies from March 29
- Britain uses vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca
- 1.7 million doses were delayed because they had to be retested for stability
Britain will have to slow the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine next month due to a supply shortage caused by a delay in sending millions of doses of AstraZeneca from India and the need to test the stability of 1.7 million additional doses.
Supply constraints are the biggest threat to vaccine deployment in Britain – currently the fastest among the world’s major economies – and health officials have warned the program would face a significant reduction in supplies from March 29.
“It is true that in the short term we are getting less vaccines than we expected a week ago,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference, claiming this was due a delay in a shipment from the Indian Serum Institute and because a UK consignment had to be retested.
“As a result, we will receive a little less vaccine in April than in March, but it is still more than what we received in February, and the supply we have will still allow us to meet the targets we have. we are set, ”he said.
Earlier, Health Minister Matt Hancock said that while Britain was currently in the midst of “exceptional weeks of supply”, a batch of 1.7 million doses of the vaccine had been delayed because it had to be retested for its stability. He did not specify the manufacturer.
Britain uses vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca, 10 million of the 100 million doses ordered from AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute.
A spokesperson for the Serum Institute said it delivered 5 million doses to Britain a few weeks ago, adding that it “would try to deliver more later, based on the current situation. and the requirements of the government immunization program in India “.
Serum Institute chief executive Adar Poonawalla was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying supplies depend on how many doses the Indian government allows to go to the UK.
But, with Britain already at odds with the European Union over vaccine exports, Johnson took a conciliatory tone, saying he didn’t think India had blocked deliveries and also wanted to work. with Europe.
Pressed to find out if the Indian government had stopped vaccine exports to Britain, Johnson said: “No, no, there is a delay as it often happens, caused for various technical reasons, but we hope to continue. to work very closely with the Serum Institute, and even with partners around the world, including on the European continent. “
Israel is the leader in vaccinating its people, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Chile and the United Kingdom – and investors are watching closely for economies that may recover first.
More than half of all adults in England have received their first COVID-19 vaccine. For the UK as a whole, just under half of adults received their first dose.
Row of vaccines
As Britain tries to get more vaccines, it also faces growing anger from the European Union, which on Wednesday threatened to ban vaccine exports to Britain.
Hancock said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen should respect contract law and Britain expected to receive the deliveries it ordered.
“There are very important consequences to breaking contract law,” Hancock said.
Britain imports Pfizer’s vaccine from Europe, but despite the row, Johnson said people shouldn’t be worried about supplies from the EU.
“These vaccines are a multinational effort and they are produced through international cooperation and we in the UK will continue to view it in that spirit,” he said.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca said on Wednesday that their delivery schedules had not been affected. A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said on Wednesday that “the UK’s domestic supply chain is not being disrupted”.
The UK medicines regulator said there had been five cases of a rare type of blood clot in the brain among 11 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, but said it had found the vaccine’s benefits far outweighed the possible risks.
England Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said anecdotal reports suggested some people did not show up for vaccination appointments after shooting was suspended in some European countries, but record numbers was still being vaccinated.
Hancock denied rumors that the delays mean that no adults get a first dose of the vaccine in April, but said it was important to make sure there was enough vaccine to give people a second dose within 12 weeks of the first.
He also said Britain was set to offer everyone over 50 a first shot in mid-April and a shot for all adults by the end of July. He added that a roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions in England was unaffected.
Earlier, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said supplies would resume in May, and Moderna Inc said it expected the first shipments of its vaccine to Britain to begin in April.
Hancock said Britain expected Moderna vaccine doses to arrive “in the coming weeks.”