London surgery visited by Health Secretary Matt Hancock yet to receive Oxford vaccine

7 January 2021, 14:16 | Updated: 7 January 2021, 14:20

Multiple practices have spoken of supply chain issues for the coronavirus vaccines
Multiple practices have spoken of supply chain issues for the coronavirus vaccines. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A surgery visited by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as part of a promotion for the Covid vaccine rollout is yet to receive its Oxford-AstraZeneca shots.

Problems facing the coronavirus vaccine rollout were made clear to the Cabinet minister during his visit to the Bloomsbury Surgery in central London.

Upon his arrival, Mr Hancock was said to be "quite surprised" to learn the surgery did not know when it would receive all its vaccine deliveries.

The health secretary told reporters that supply from the manufacturers was the "rate-limiting" factor in efforts to administer jabs.

He added that the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot - which is meant to be easier to distribute than the Pfizer-PioNTech jab - was now being supplied to GP practices across the country.

However, GP Ammara Hughes, a partner at the surgery, said the practice's first delivery of AstraZeneca's vaccine had been pushed back 24 hours to Friday.

Read more: PM to hold press conference as Oxford vaccine rolled out to GPs

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"It's just more frustrating than a concern because we've got the capacity to vaccinate. And if we had a regular supply - we do have the capacity to vaccinate three to four thousand patients a week," she told Sky.

"We have been running since the middle of December and on our busiest days we can vaccinate 500 people easily.

"If we could get the AstraZeneca, then we could easily vaccinate 500 a day, which would ease the pressure on the health service and we could get more and more people vaccinated quickly and hopefully get out of the pandemic."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the scenes at the surgery were like something from political comedy The Thick of It, but added: "Sadly it's no laughing matter."

He tweeted: "This should be a clear reminder to ministers to move and heaven to get vaccination widely rolled out ASAP.

"We're in a race against time and we need to start with 2 million jabs a week urgently."

Read more: Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine rolled out to GPs

Read more: Boris Johnson: UK in final 'sprint' to defeat coronavirus

Matt Hancock visited the Bloomsbury Surgery in central London on Thursday
Matt Hancock visited the Bloomsbury Surgery in central London on Thursday. Picture: PA

Standing in front of Dr Hughes's surgery, Mr Hancock said: "It's great news this morning that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is from right now being rolled out to GP surgeries across the country.

"For the first three days with the Oxford vaccine we did it in hospitals to check that it was working well and it's working well so now we can make sure that it gets to all those GP surgeries that like this one can do all the vaccinations that are needed.

"The rate-limiting step is the supply of vaccine. We're working with the companies - both Pfizer and AstraZeneca - to increase the supply."

However, both firms have said they are on track to deliver vaccines as agreed with the government.

The rapid expansion of the vaccination programme is pivotal to the government's efforts to tackle coronavirus and lift England's national lockdown.

UK "now in a sprint" towards defeating Covid, says PM

Dr Hughes added that Mr Hancock was "quite surprised actually to learn that we don't know when all of our deliveries are coming, they're very ad hoc".

The surgery has been administering the Pfizer vaccine since the middle of December and has so far received three deliveries of that jab.

Dr Hughes said: "So we've continued to vaccinate with Pfizer in the surgery, and what we're hoping to do with the AstraZeneca when it arrives is to go out to the most clinically vulnerable and housebound.

"So that's what we'll be doing.

"We won't start vaccinating within the surgery with our AstraZeneca doses until we've finished our Pfizer vaccines."

A message to our patients regarding the Covid-19 Vaccination: We have recently been contacting patients who are aged 80...

Posted by Binscombe Medical Centre on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Elsewhere, a spokesperson for Binscombe Medical Centre in Godalming, Surrey, also said staff were "frustrated and disappointed" that its vaccine supplies had not been delivered.

Issues with deliveries have meant that appointments at the practice have been rescheduled.

"We have been made aware this afternoon that, due to a problem with the supply chain, the vaccine has not been delivered for the patients who have been booked into clinics this week," a post read on its Facebook page.

"Patients who already have an appointment will be contacted by the managing organisation to let them know their appointment will need to be rescheduled.

"We are assured that all those affected will be contacted when further appointment slots are available and will be treated as a priority as soon as the vaccine becomes available."

The Department for Health and Social Care and the government's vaccines department have both been approached for comments.

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