England to face 'significant reduction' in vaccine supply

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London, Mar. 18 (BNA): England could face a "significant reduction" in its weekly vaccine supply for four weeks from March 29, health chiefs at the National Health Service have warned.

In a letter published Wednesday, Emily Lawson and Dr Nikita Kanani of NHS England told vaccination centres that they had been informed by the government's vaccine task force of a "significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers" from March 29, meaning volumes for first doses will be "significantly constrained."

"They now currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply," the letter stated. No further vaccine appointments should be made for the month of April, it added, Deutsche press agency (dpa) reported.

It was not clear what lay behind the reduction in weekly supply, or if people receiving second doses would be affected in any way.

However, the letter made it clear that second doses would continue to be administered.

In a press briefing held after the letter was revealed, Britain's health secretary insisted Britain remains on track to reach the government's goal of vaccinating 32 million people in a month's time.

"Vaccine supply is always lumpy, and we regularly send out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs of the supply over the future weeks," Matt Hancock told the press conference.

"We're on track to meet the target of offering the vaccine to all [vaccine priority] groups 1-9 by April 15."

He added the letter was a "standard" technical letter.

It comes as Britain's department of health said, as of Tuesday, more than 25 million people in Britain have received an initial dose of a vaccine against Covid-19.

A total of 25,273,226 people had their first dose of a vaccine, made either by Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca/Oxford. 

Meanwhile 1,759,445 people have received their second shot.

This means 26.5 million people - almost half of the adult population - have already been vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is soon to be included in the stastistic as he confirmed to lawmakers on Wednesday that he would be receiving his first jab soon and it would be the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

Johnson's point prompted questions from journalists, as Britons are not allowed to choose which vaccines they have.

The JCVI vaccine advisory body said it "does not advise a preference for either vaccine in any specific population."

"For operational and programmatic reasons ... one vaccine may be offered in certain settings in preference over another vaccine."

It is understood the NHS told Johnson he would receive the AstraZeneca jab because of public interest surrounding the vaccine, but it is unclear if Downing Street specifically requested it.

Britain began rolling out its vaccines to Britons on December 8.