UK

Pfizer jab supply worries mean target of 15m vaccinated by mid-Feb ‘very tight’, source says 

Pfizer jab supply worries will make reaching Boris Johnson’s target of 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February ‘very, very, tight,’ a government source warned last night.

The number of Britons having jabs fell for the third day in a row on Monday, slumping to 204,076 – down from 324,000 on Friday.

Pfizer has warned supplies will be dented this month and the next as they revamp their factory in Belgium so they can pump out more doses.

A government source said the supply was already ‘very constrained’ and fears are spreading through Cabinet that they won’t hit their target of 15 million in the four most vulnerable groups vaccinated by February 15.

‘It’s going to be very very tight,’ the source told The Times.  

So far more than 4 million people have received their first dose through the NHS – which makes the UK one of the best covered countries in the world – but to reach the target Britain must manage 360,000 jabs per day from Tuesday onward.

Each day that they fall below this figure will compound their woes. 

But one government source said he was ‘confident’ the Government would hit its target, while admitting that the Pfizer supply chain issues would make it more difficult. 

Pfizer jab supply worries mean target of 15m vaccinated by mid-Feb 'very tight', source says 

Pfizer jab supply worries mean target of 15m vaccinated by mid-Feb 'very tight', source says 

Pfizer last Friday warned Britain to expect delays this month and into next month while upgrades were made at their factory in Puurs, Belgium.

This ‘temporary impact’ will then allow for ‘significantly increased’ production in the latter half of February and in March.

Why has Britain’s Covid vaccination programme slowed down?

The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply.  

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night Mr Hancock said vaccine supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’.

‘If you listen to voices on the ground in the NHS, you hear people saying ‘give us more supply and we will jab it into more arms’,’ he said. ‘We are shoveling it out as fast as we can.’

Pressure is mounting on the Government to dish out coronavirus vaccines 24/7, with Labour saying No10 ‘must deliver for the British people’ because the public ‘have sacrificed so much’.  

But ministers earlier claimed there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm. 

It emerged last week that Pfizer is shrinking and delaying its deliveries to Europe while it expands its factory in Belgium.

The company makes one of just two vaccines that are being given to the public in the UK and confirmed that Britain would be affected in late January and February.  

Countries in the EU have criticised Pfizer for shrinking its deliveries as it emerged Norway would get a batch 18 per cent smaller than expected next week.

A spokesperson at the company told the Financial Times: ‘Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March.’

They have committed to providing the same number of doses between January and March but said they will be ‘phased differently’. 

Some 204,076 people in Britain were vaccinated on Monday, falling rapidly from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and 324,000 on Friday. 

Dr Duncan Robertson, an analyst at Loughborough University, said today: ‘The number vaccinated has fallen for three successive days. It would be useful to know what the vaccine supply schedule is over the next weeks and months, and the reason for this decrease.’

The reasons behind the slowdown are not clear – it could be a consequence of the Government focusing efforts and supplies on slow rollout areas so they can get to all over-80s, or it may be a bottleneck in supply.

Ministers repeatedly warned last week that manufacturing speed was the ‘limiting factor’ and it has emerged that Pfizer, one of the two vaccine suppliers, has delayed its deliveries for the rest of January while it expands its Belgian factory.

It comes amid growing pressure on the NHS to run a 24/7 service after people noticed the number of jabs given out over the weekend was lower than in the week.   

No10 was told today it must ‘throw as much money as possible’ at the NHS to ensure coronavirus vaccine uptake stays high all week. 

At a Downing Street press conference last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock brushed off questions about the lower uptake the weekend, urging people to look at the weekly averages rather than data from individual days.

But think-tanks told MailOnline today that the drop was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’, and called on ministers to ‘put money into it’, if it turned out that staffing issues was to blame. 

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, told MailOnline: ‘Throughout this pandemic the Government has consistently over-promised and under delivered. When it comes to the vaccination program, the Government must avoid repeating the failures of our test and trace system and PPE supply chains to the frontline.’ 

It comes as an NHS trust in London today reportedly sent out an email to staff urging them to just turn up to get Covid vaccinations because leftover doses were at risk of expiring if they weren’t used by tomorrow morning.

Health and social care workers are in one of the top priority groups to get vaccinated, and people working in the vaccine supply chain will now also be prioritised to make sure deliveries are not interrupted.

Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as officials in Scotland and Wales have been accused of stockpiling vaccine stores and not using them as soon as possible. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said yesterday he did not want staff ‘standing round doing nothing’ later in the month if all supplies of the jabs were used now. Scottish Conservatives said today there are 400,000 doses that have been delivered to Scotland but not used yet.

Department of Health figures published today show that the number of people vaccinated against Covid rose by 204,076 between Sunday and Monday. 

The total number of coronavirus vaccine doses dished out — 208,641 — is higher because some patients were given their second jab. 

Data also revealed the number of people vaccinated in England has fallen from 320,894 on Friday to 167,150 in the past 24 hours.

Across Britain as a whole, the total number of people getting jabs daily fell from 324,233 on Friday to 277,915 on Saturday to 225,407 on Sunday.

To hit its target of 13.9million people by February 15, which is the Prime Minister’s target before he can start to think about loosening lockdown restrictions in March, the nation must manage 360,000 per day, and this number will increase for every day that the target isn’t hit.

The Adam Smith Institute think-tank told MailOnline today there seemed to be a ‘lackadaisical approach to Saturdays and Sundays’.

Deputy director Matt Kilcoyne said the blip in figures was ‘both worrying and unwarranted in the face of the pandemic’.

‘Knowing as we do that every hour counts, every day counts… there is no reason why the UK could not have the same vaccination rollout rate as Israel,’ he added.  

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said NHS staff needed to be congratulated on the ‘great job’ they’ve done with the vaccine roll out so far. 

But he added: ‘The NHS is bit of a five day week service in many ways and if it comes down to staffing then we need to put more money into it. If you give people strong financial incentives it makes people want to work seven days a week.’ 

Ministers are piloting 24/7 vaccinations after Boris Johnson came under immense scrutiny for claiming there was ‘no clamour’ for appointments beyond 8pm. But the inconsistencies at the weekend will raise concerns about whether No10 can deliver.

Mr Snowdon told MailOnline ‘money should be no object’ when it comes to the vaccine rollout because the benefits of immunising the entire country and ending the economically-crippling lockdowns would outweigh any cost.

He said: ‘At the moment they’re only paying GPs commission on jabs given to care home residents, but they [the Government] should pay commission for every patient. 

‘It seems that we need more staff, and the staff we’ve got need to work longer hours, so they have to throw as much money as possible at it.’ 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister

Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as leaders in Scotland (Nicola Sturgeon, right) and Wales (Mark Drakeford, left) have been criticised for sitting on supplies of the jabs

Staff at a London hospital are invited for a ‘walk-in’ jab to use up spare doses 

Staff at a London hospital were sent an email Tuesday urging them and colleagues to get impromptu Covid jabs because it had doses that were at risk of being ‘wasted’ if they aren’t used by tomorrow morning.

‘We still have a large amount of walk-in vaccination appointments available today for FIRST DOSE vaccinations for staff’, staff said in an email tweeted by EveryDoctor, a campaign group run by NHS doctors.

The email continued: ‘This batch of vaccinations need to be used by 8.15am tomorrow or they will be wasted.’ 

Staff were ‘actively encouraged’ to book in for a walk-in vaccination. 

EveryDoctor tweeted: ‘Covid-19 vaccine doses may be wasted because NHS hospitals are not allowed to give 2nd doses (a full vaccine course) to NHS staff.

‘The Government needs to change this now to protect staff and patients.’ 

It comes after local NHS leaders are said to have issued vaccine disposal instructions to doctors organising clinics, despite Professor Chris Whitty saying the UK’s roll-out of vaccinations was being held back by delayed deliveries of the Pfizer jab.

Some surgeries are taking a stand against the orders, described as ‘bordering on criminal’, but others fear their supplies will be cancelled if they don’t comply.

Supply chain uncertainty – particularly around the Pfizer jab which needs to be kept at -70C – means GPs are struggling to book the exact number of appointments for clinics and in some cases patients haven’t turned up having been given little time to prepare.

The NHS said there was ‘no reason’ why stocks should be wasted, insisting vaccination sites should make sure a back-up list of patients and staff who can get the jab at short-notice if there are such absences is drawn up.  

Public Health England last night blamed the lower weekend figures on reporting delays and the Health Secretary insisted the roll-out was a ‘full seven-day service’ with the Government ‘prepared to go 24/7’.

When asked about the drop in figures at the press briefing, Mr Hancock said: ‘The vaccine delivery is absolutely delivering a full seven-day service and we are prepared to go 24/7.

‘I wouldn’t read too much into an individual day’s data, I think the best thing to do is look at weekly averages and, as you say, you can see that going up, and up fast.’

Mr Hancock said vaccine supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’. ‘If you listen to voices on the ground in the NHS, you hear people saying ‘give us more supply and we will jab it into more arms’,’ he added. ‘We are shoveling it out as fast as we can.’  

Mr Hancock revealed that 4million Britons have now had a coronavirus vaccine, amid mounting claims that a ‘postcode lottery’ has left vulnerable people in certain areas unprotected.

With the successful roll-out of a Covid vaccine the only hope ministers have of being able to ease the lockdown restrictions this spring, the Health Secretary told the nation: ‘Don’t blow it now, we’re on the route out.’

The Health Secretary also admitted supplies of the only two approved jabs, made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are being prioritised to areas lagging behind in the roll-out.

It comes after another 7million Britons were sent invite letters to receive their coronavirus jabs from yesterday — but only in areas where the ‘majority’ of over-80s have had it already.

Discussing Britain’s growing Covid vaccine postcode lottery, Mr Hancock praised Slough for ensuring all of their care home residents have had their first dose. Newcastle-upon-Tyne has also achieved the feat.

But he said: ‘What we’re doing now is making sure that whilst they, of course, will be able to move onto the next group, we’re prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s.

‘But we don’t want to stop the areas that have effectively done that job already, we want them to carry on, but the priority of the vaccine is according to the JCVI prioritisation list. The critical thing is to make sure that everybody can get it, that we’re putting more supply into the areas that have got more to do.’

Whitehall insiders believe the UK’s vaccine rollout is going so well that the wider adult population may be covered by June rather than September, with around 280,000 doses currently being administered each day. Ten new mass vaccination centres opened on Tuesday, to speed up the programme even further. 

No10 says all areas HAVE had ‘equal access’ to Covid vaccines amid ‘postcode lottery’ row 

Number 10 has insisted all areas have had equal access to the coronavirus vaccine amid mounting anger over a jabs ‘postcode lottery’.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman dug his heels in on the claims today, saying ministers had ‘ensured’ everywhere received the same supplies. 

Matt Hancock yesterday revealed some regions were lagging behind schedule in the rollout to over-80s — despite No10 announcing the scheme was being expanded to all over-70s and adults with underlying conditions.

But the Health Secretary hinted supplies have not been equally distributed, as he claimed they were being diverted to areas which were way off target.

No10 has yet to confirm whether ‘equal’ means all regions got the same number of doses, or enough doses to vaccinate the same proportion of over-80s. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said last week he was ‘hugely concerned’ by the sluggish rollout in the capital, complaining about the city’s vaccine supply.

Staff at a London hospital were sent an email Tuesday urging them and colleagues to get impromptu Covid jabs because it had doses that were at risk of being ‘wasted’ if they aren’t used by tomorrow morning.

‘We still have a large amount of walk-in vaccination appointments available today for FIRST DOSE vaccinations for staff’, staff said in an email tweeted by EveryDoctor, a campaign group run by NHS doctors.

The email continued: ‘This batch of vaccinations need to be used by 8.15am tomorrow or they will be wasted.’ 

Staff were ‘actively encouraged’ to book in for a walk-in vaccination. 

EveryDoctor tweeted: ‘Covid-19 vaccine doses may be wasted because NHS hospitals are not allowed to give 2nd doses (a full vaccine course) to NHS staff.

‘The Government needs to change this now to protect staff and patients.’ 

It comes after local NHS leaders are said to have issued vaccine disposal instructions to doctors organising clinics, despite Professor Chris Whitty saying the UK’s roll-out of vaccinations was being held back by delayed deliveries of the Pfizer jab.

Some surgeries are taking a stand against the orders, described as ‘bordering on criminal’, but others fear their supplies will be cancelled if they don’t comply.

Supply chain uncertainty – particularly around the Pfizer jab which needs to be kept at -70C – means GPs are struggling to book the exact number of appointments for clinics and in some cases patients haven’t turned up having been given little time to prepare.

The NHS said there was ‘no reason’ why stocks should be wasted, insisting vaccination sites should make sure a back-up list of patients and staff who can get the jab at short-notice if there are such absences is drawn up. 

Concerns about the speed of the rollout come as Scotland and Wales have been criticised for sitting on supplies of the jabs.

Elderly Britons may be missing invites for Covid jabs because GPs are having to TEXT them due to ‘short notice of supply’

Elderly Britons may be missing appointments for their coronavirus vaccines because GPs are sending them invites by text, doctors fear.

Some over-80s who are next in line for the jab are being contacted on their mobile phones because of the ‘short notice of supply’. Dr Ollie Hart, a GP involved in the rollout in Sheffield, said he was concerned it was leading to many missing their jabs.

He said: ‘The difficulty for us has been the short notice of supply, which has meant we’ve had to contact most people by mobile phones and by telephone rather than sending letters and having a more staged and planned approach.

‘So that has meant if people haven’t been in or we haven’t been able to get hold of them sometimes we might of missed people.’ He urged over-80s still waiting to hear from their surgeries to give them a call to ensure they hadn’t missed any calls or text messages.’

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine poses few problems for surgeries because it can be stored in standard fridges for months. But the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — which was the first to be approved — must be used five days after it is defrosted. 

Dr Hart said once supplies of the jab are delivered there is usually only three-and-a-half days left, leading to frantic calls to the priority groups to ensure no supplies are wasted. The NHS says most invites are sent as letters — but GP practices can invite their own patients by text.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Scottish Government has received 717,000 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines – but claimed that well over half of these had not yet been used. 

She said: ‘We know how many doses of vaccine have so far been delivered to Scotland, we know how many GP practices have agreed to take part in the process. The GPs know who their patients are and they know how to contact them.

‘The only thing that’s missing is for too many practices across Scotland they have not yet actually received any supplies.’ 

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, replied: ‘Supplies are allocated to Scotland, they are then drawn down to Scotland, and we vaccinate as quickly as we possibly can.  That will continue to be the case.

‘In terms of the doses that are in Scotland, many of them have already been put into people’s arms.’

Welsh leader Mark Drakeford yesterday came under fire for his strategy of rationing coronavirus vaccine doses to make them last until the next delivery in February, instead of using them as fast as possible. 

Mr Drakeford yesterday admitted Wales isn’t using up all of its doses of the Pfizer jab, claiming the ‘sensible’ thing to do is ration supplies so the programme could work steadily until next month and so staff aren’t ‘standing around with nothing to do’ if supplies run out.

But MPs slammed his plan as ‘dangerous’ and said the point of the programme is to protect elderly people from dying not to keep NHS staff busy.

Welsh Tory leader Paul Davies said: ‘You’d have thought from a government’s perspective they would’ve wanted to distribute the vaccines as soon as possible. I was flabbergasted by his comments.

‘This is a matter of life and death, and that’s why it’s so crucial now that they get these vaccines out to people as soon as possible.

‘To suggest that vaccines should be rolled out over a period of time so that vaccinators are not standing around with nothing to do is absolutely preposterous.

‘If we don’t get the vaccines out as soon as possible, and into people’s arms as soon as possible, then unfortunately more people are going to die.’

David Jones, MP for Clwyd West said the explanation was ‘wholly incoherent’. Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean on the Welsh border, said it was ‘dangerous’ and that people needed vaccines as soon as was possible. And Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said it was ‘deeply, deeply frustrating’.

Up to 2,000 people working in roles in Covid vaccine supply chain will be offered jabs

Up to 2,000 people working in roles in the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain will be offered jabs to help ensure the UK gets the doses it needs to protect the most vulnerable, the Government has announced.

The move follows a plea from AstraZeneca to protect workers involved with the manufacture of the vaccine to ensure the supply chain runs smoothly.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said staff working for Pfizer and AstraZeneca that are involved in crucial supply chain roles in the UK will be among those eligible for the jabs.

The employees will be the first group of key workers outside of the NHS, social care and care home workers to be vaccinated.

Highly trained workers who have been identified by the Government as being irreplaceable and crucial to the delivery of vaccine supplies will be offered vaccines.

Last week Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, called for people in the vaccine process to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

It was also revealed that up to 2,000 people working in roles in the coronavirus vaccine supply chain will be offered jabs to help ensure the UK gets the doses it needs to protect the most vulnerable.

The move — announced by Number 10 — follows a plea from AstraZeneca to protect workers involved with the manufacturing of the vaccine to ensure the supply chain runs smoothly.

The Department for Health said staff working for Pfizer and AstraZeneca that are involved in crucial supply chain roles in the UK will be among those eligible for the jabs. The employees will be the first group of key workers outside of the NHS, social care and care home workers to be vaccinated.

Highly trained workers who have been identified by the Government as being irreplaceable and crucial to the delivery of vaccine supplies will be offered vaccines.

Last week Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, called for people in the vaccine process to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

He told the Science and Technology Committee that an outbreak had already occurred in one group working on the vaccine.

‘One of the things that I’m worried about is actually maintaining a continuous supply and work on this vaccine,’ he said.

‘Of course with the outbreak and the pandemic where it is – I feel it’s critical to the people that are working on this vaccine are actually immunised.

‘Because if you have an outbreak at one of the centres – which we’ve had actually – or in one of the groups in Oxford (that) is working on new variants, or the people that are working on the regulatory files, everything stops.

‘This is a concern that I have and so again we’re pushing to try and get our key workers that are working on the vaccine project immunised to try and prevent these outbreaks.’

A racecourse which is hosting a Covid-19 vaccination hub that provides up to 1,500 jabs daily is temporarily halting the service to enable its horse racing to continue. Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire opened its vaccination hub on Thursday last week as part of the nationwide drive to inoculate against the virus

A racecourse which is hosting a Covid-19 vaccination hub that provides up to 1,500 jabs daily is temporarily halting the service to enable its horse racing to continue. Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire opened its vaccination hub on Thursday last week as part of the nationwide drive to inoculate against the virus

Racecourse hosting Covid vaccine hub is halting its service to allow horse racing to continue 

A racecourse which is hosting a Covid-19 vaccination hub that provides up to 1,500 jabs daily is temporarily halting the service to enable its horse racing to continue.

Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire opened its vaccination hub on Thursday last week as part of the nationwide drive to inoculate against the virus.

But less than a week later, the centre will shut for a day on Wednesday for a scheduled race day.

Horse racing is allowed to continue under lockdown rules because it is considered an elite sport.

The racecourse posted on Twitter on Thursday: ‘A heartwarming moment as the first patients arrive at the racecourse to receive the vaccine against Covid-19. Proud to play a small part in this positive moment and our thanks to all @BerksWestCCG & local GP’s who are working tirelessly to distribute up to 1500 vaccines a day.’

It also posted: ‘A decision was taken not to operate on Wednesday to minimise the risk to all participants, but this is being reviewed moving forward.’

A spokeswoman for the racecourse said: ‘The race day has always been planned and we have made provision for it so it is not hampering the vaccination process.

‘The vaccination centre opened last week and the NHS was made aware of the race day. We have an abundance of space but a decision was made we would not operate both the race day and the vaccination centre this week but that is being reviewed so both may be open in the future.’ 

The DHSC said that workers identified as ‘irreplaceable and crucial’ to the delivery of vaccine supplies will be offered vaccines.

‘Highly trained workers who have been identified by the Government as being irreplaceable and crucial to the delivery of vaccine supplies will be offered vaccines,’ DHSC said.

Those eligible include staff making the vaccine substance, working on fill and finish and batch testing, as well as those involved in end-to-end coordination who are responsible for getting doses to the right place at the right time.

And in other vaccine developments on Tuesday, a racecourse which is hosting a Covid-19 vaccination hub that provides up to 1,500 jabs daily is temporarily halting the service to enable its horse racing to continue.

Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire opened its vaccination hub on Thursday last week as part of the nationwide drive to inoculate against the virus.

But less than a week later, the centre will shut for a day on Wednesday for a scheduled race day.

Horse racing is allowed to continue under lockdown rules because it is considered an elite sport.

The racecourse posted on Twitter on Thursday: ‘A heartwarming moment as the first patients arrive at the racecourse to receive the vaccine against Covid-19. Proud to play a small part in this positive moment and our thanks to all @BerksWestCCG & local GP’s who are working tirelessly to distribute up to 1500 vaccines a day.’

It also posted: ‘A decision was taken not to operate on Wednesday to minimise the risk to all participants, but this is being reviewed moving forward.’

A spokeswoman for the racecourse said: ‘The race day has always been planned and we have made provision for it so it is not hampering the vaccination process.

‘The vaccination centre opened last week and the NHS was made aware of the race day. We have an abundance of space but a decision was made we would not operate both the race day and the vaccination centre this week but that is being reviewed so both may be open in the future.’

Newbury has 29 race days scheduled for the year including Wednesday, one in February and four in March.

A spokeswoman for Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group said: ‘Local NHS staff are working hard to continue to deliver vaccinations throughout the week and into the weekend, and we are working with Newbury Racecourse so vaccinations can continue to take place safely on race days in future.’

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