Drop in vaccine supply will make 'no change' to lockdown roadmap, PM says

18 March 2021, 17:35 | Updated: 18 March 2021, 18:13

'No change' to England's lockdown roadmap despite fewer vaccines, PM says
'No change' to England's lockdown roadmap despite fewer vaccines, PM says. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

There will be "no change" to England's roadmap out of lockdown despite receiving "fewer vaccines in April than in March", Boris Johnson has said.

Speaking at Thursday's Downing Street press conference, the prime minister explained that the country is still on track to hit its vaccination targets for the year.

All those invited for a jab will be given a dose of the coronavirus vaccine despite an expected downturn over the next month, Mr Johnson said.

He sought to reassure the British public that "if you come forward after receiving your letter, we have the jabs for you".

The UK leader said: "We have always said that in a vaccination programme of this pace and this scale, some interruptions in supply are inevitable and it is true that in the short term we’re receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for a week ago."

But he added that despite the UK being supplied fewer vaccines in April than in March, that figure is still higher than what the country received in February.

Read more: EMA says Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 'safe and effective'

Read more: No proven link between AZ jab and blood clots, says UK regulator

He then explained that he did not expect the reduction in the supply of vaccines to affect the roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions.

"The supply we do have will still enable us to hit the targets we have set," he said.

"That means by 15 April we will be able to offer a first dose to all of you who are over 50, as well as those who are under 50 who are clinically vulnerable.

"We will have the second doses people need within the 12-week window, which means around 12 million people in April, and will still offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July.

"So there is no change to the next steps of the road map.

Read more: 1.7m doses need re-testing and supplies from India delayed - Hancock

Explained: Vaccine delay: When will over 40s get their Covid-19 jabs?

"We have now vaccinated over 25 million people across our entire United Kingdom, more than the entire population of many countries.

"Our progress along the road to freedom continues unchecked - we remain on track to reclaim the things we love, to see our families and friends again, to return to our local pubs, our gyms and sports facilities and of course our shops."

His comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Thursday that the need to retest 1.7million coronavirus vaccine doses as well as a delay in supplies from India have caused the jab shortage in the UK.

On Wednesday, health officials said the number of people getting their first dose of the vaccine will be “constrained” from the end of March due to a “significant reduction” in supply.

Explaining the reasons for this in the House of Commons, the health secretary said a batch of 1.7 million doses had been delayed “because of the need to retest its stability”.

He told MPs: "In April, supply is tighter than this month and we have a huge number of second doses to deliver. During April, around 12 million people, including many colleagues in this House will receive their second dose.

"These second doses cannot be delayed as they have to be delivered within 12 weeks of the first dose.

"In the last week, we've had a batch of 1.7 million doses delayed because of the need to retest its stability.

"Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity and this shows the rigour of our safety checks."

The Indian government has been accused of temporarily holding Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine exports to the UK amid reports a shipment of five million doses produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) has been delayed.

Britain already received an initial batch of five million doses at the beginning of March.

CEO of the SII, Adar Poonawalla, told The Daily Telegraph the delay was "solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with the SII. It is to do with the Indian Government allowing more doses to the UK”.