Matt Hancock has said there will be a significant drop in vaccine supply in April, confirming that supplies have been affected by the need to retest 1.7 million doses and a delay in the arrival of imports from India. .
Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock stressed that the overall target timeline for vaccines will not change, but said he wanted to give more information, following “speculation we have seen overnight” after he was criticized by a conference. press on Wednesday where the drop in supply was unexplained.
“In the last week, a batch of 1.7 million doses was delayed due to the need to retest its stability,” he said. “Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing effort of this complexity and this demonstrates the rigor of our security controls. And we have a delay in arrival scheduled from the Serum Institute of India. “
However, speaking to The Guardian previously, a source authorized to speak on behalf of the institute denied that there was any delay in the delivery of the vaccines, claiming that a deadline had not been agreed to deliver a second tranche of 5 million doses.
The source said there had been no delay from the Indian government and said they had given their approval for the exports, although the permission depended on the situation in India.
The Health Secretary said there would inevitably be some uncertainty in the manufacturing process. “The pace of implementation has always been determined by the availability of supply. The vaccine manufacturing process is complicated and subject to unpredictability, ”he said.
“We make public commitments to the goals we can achieve, based on our best estimates of future supply. That supply goes up and down. “
Hancock said the UK was currently experiencing “some extraordinary weeks of supply” but that it would come down. The slowing down of the first doses will also come from the need to use the supply to administer the second doses to meet the 12-week deadline, Hancock said.
“We have a large 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 must be given within 12 weeks of the first dose. “
Hancock went to great lengths to praise the Serum Institute of India, as well as vaccine producers Pfizer and AstraZeneca, saying the institute was doing an “incredible job” producing vaccines for everyone.
“Its technology and capabilities, which have been approved by the MHRA, are remarkable. It really is an association that we can be proud of, ”he told MPs.
He said appointments would not be canceled and that goals were still on track to be met. “There will be no weeks in April without first doses, there will be no appointments canceled as a result of supply problems. Second doses will be done as planned. “
Hancock also announced that Gibraltar had become “the first nation in the world to complete its entire adult vaccination program” and called it a “success thanks to the team spirit of the British family of nations”.
After a slow start, India’s vaccination program has more than doubled the number of doses given each day compared to last week, which in turn has likely increased its demands on the institute’s supply.
India has sold or given away around 59 million doses of vaccines abroad, compared to 37 million it has administered at home, with another 38 million distributed to state governments and awaiting use. Indians have largely supported their government’s “maitri vaccine” (vaccine friendship) program, but the country’s Foreign Minister, S Jaishankar, told parliament on Wednesday that exports and donations were “based on the assessment of adequate availability in the home.”
AstraZeneca has partnered with the institute, which is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to supply the government of India and other countries, including low- and middle-income countries.
A member of the UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunization admitted Thursday morning that Covid infections could increase as a result of the delay in getting vaccinated for people 40 and younger.
Adam Finn, who advises UK health departments on immunization and is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol, told BBC Radio 4’s Today show that vaccination of those under 50 “may start a little later. than we were optimistically hoping for. “
Finn said the decline in hospitalizations should continue as long as everyone over 50 and vulnerable people get vaccinated on time. He said the 12 weeks between the first and second doses should not be allowed to “slip significantly.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism