THE SLOW down in Covid vaccine supplies will pick up again, the chief medical officer for England has reassured.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said he was “confident” that doses will continue coming into the UK after a recent slump in vaccination rates.
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Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said the slow down in vaccine supplies will pick up again. He is pictured on Good Morning Britain during a round of interviewsCredit: Rex Features
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “Am I confident in the long term that we are absolutely going to be able to reach our ambitions through vaccine apply? Yes, I am.
“Do I think this slow down is going to suddenly pick up again? Yes, I do.”
Official figures show the average number of doses given in a day has dropped by 25 per cent in one week.
On February 12, the seven-day vaccination rate of first doses was 418,517, which had dropped to 334,296 on February 19.
Looking at individual days, 192,341 doses were given on Tuesday – a drop of 43 per cent compared to the Tuesday the week prior, when 275,956 first doses were given.
At the same time, the number of second doses being given has increased.
It comes after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC this week to expect “a quieter week this week” for vaccine supply.
But he added “we’re going to have some really bumper weeks in March”.
Asked about why there had been a drop-off in vaccine rates, Prof Van-Tam said: “There are always going to be supply fluctuations. These are new vaccines, by and large the manufacturers have not made them or anything like them before.
“The process of making a vaccine is one where, basically, you set the equipment up and leave it all to do its thing – a bit like beer-making really.
“What you get at the end is not something that you can say is identical every time in terms of the yield, the amount of doses you can then make from that batch.”
Prof Van-Tam, who goes by ‘JVT’, said it would take “a few months” before the manufacturers can get into a confident and steady routine.
On top of this, he said, there were also “global supply constraints”.
But he added: “In the UK we are in an amazing place compared to so many parts of the world.
“Everybody is looking for vaccines. We’ve been very clever, very much on the front foot, in getting access to vaccines.”
In a round of interviews this morning, JVT also said:
- That healthcare workers have a “professional responsibility” to accept their vaccine offer.
- The lockdown roadmap is “painstakingly cautious” and he is “desperate” for the return of football – but he agrees it must be “slow and steady” to avoid any U-turns.
- He told Brits “don’t rush” to get their vital second dose of Oxford jab because they’ll get better protection if they leave the long 12-week gap.
- It’s “’safer” to meet family and friends after your first dose – but still against the rules.
The vaccine rollout is racing ahead to get the top nine priority groups jabbed by mid-April, already reaching almost 18 million people so far.
This includes healthcare workers, and NHS England has said around 88 per cent of patient-facing NHS Trust health care workers in England are likely to have had their first dose of a vaccine by now.
But there are no published vaccine uptake figures for people working in social care.
Asked how he feels about people working in the NHS or care homes who are refusing to have a jab, Prof Van-Tam told Good Morning Britain: “I agree with Professor (Chris) Whitty in that I think healthcare workers have always had a professional responsibility to take steps themselves to prevent them from being in a position where they could harm patients through infectious diseases they might have.
“That’s been a very clear position on hepatitis B vaccine and performing invasive procedures, particularly surgery, for decades and decades.
“And so I think that’s the professional standard that everybody ought to adhere to.
“Now, the other way of framing this is saying, if you’re a consumer of healthcare, if you’re a patient or a relative, would you prefer a healthcare worker to attend you or your relative if they have been vaccinated against Covid, or would you not really mind either way?”
Prof Van-Tam backed the timetable set out in the road map for easing restrictions and rejected calls for it to be accelerated.
He told Sky News: “The Government has laid out a pretty careful and pretty painstakingly cautious – but I think appropriate – road map to get us from where we are now to get us in stages – measured, careful stages – to where we want to be in the summer.”
Prof Van-Tam said he understood people’s frustrations with the pace of the road map.
He added: “I completely get it, I am desperate for the football to be back, but actually I would rather do this once and get it right and not have to make any U-turns or backtracking, I would rather just go slowly and steadily and get there in one go.”
It won’t be until March 29 – at the earliest – that groups of six can meet outdoors, including in private gardens.
And social distancing will remain until June 21 at least.
Prof Van-Tam said while vaccines make it “safer” to hug our relatives and friends, it is still against the rules currently.