Second-dose clinics will not be affected by a reduction in Covid vaccine supply next month, the health secretary has confirmed.
Mass vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led services were asked to close unfilled Covid vaccine appointment bookings from 29 March, although GPs were asked to keep bookings open for both first and second doses.
In a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon, Matt Hancock said he wanted to ‘clear up some rumours that have been circulating and give people reassurance’.
He told MPs: ‘There will be no weeks in April with no first doses. There will be no cancelled appointments as a result of supply issues. Second doses will go ahead as planned.’
Mr Hancock added: ‘In April, supply is tighter than this month – and we have a huge number of second doses to deliver. These second doses cannot be delayed as they have to be delivered within 12 weeks of the first dose.’
Around 12 million people will receive their second dose during April, he said.
The health secretary confirmed reports that a ‘delay in a scheduled arrival from the Serum Institute of India’ is partly behind the slowdown of supply, alongside the re-testing of a 1.7 million-dose batch.
He said: ‘In the last week, we have had a batch of 1.7 million doses delayed because of the need to re-test its stability. Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity and this shows the rigour of our safety checks.’
It comes as the first vaccines from manufacturer Moderna are expected to arrive in the UK next month.
A Moderna spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Moderna expects to begin deliveries to the UK in April, within the spring delivery window previously communicated.’
Last month, it was announced that GPs delivering the Moderna jab will have to observe patients for ‘at least’ 15 minutes.
The vaccine will be deployed through ‘similar methods’ as the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines – via hospital hubs, mass vaccination centres and community services led by primary care teams, the Government said.
Meanwhile, the Government remains ‘on track’ to meet its targets of offering first jabs to all over-50s by 15 April and all adults by the end of July, Mr Hancock told MPs.
The health secretary also announced a further £6.6bn NHS Covid fund to cover the extra costs of the pandemic during the first six months of the new financial year – although general practice was not mentioned.