'Minimal' Covid vaccine supplies next week before mid-March surge

Laura Donnelly
·2 min read
File photo dated 23/01/21 of a nurse giving a Covid-19 vaccine - Jane Barlow /PA
File photo dated 23/01/21 of a nurse giving a Covid-19 vaccine - Jane Barlow /PA

Vaccine supplies could run dry in some areas next week, health chiefs have warned – but they will double from their current rates by mid-March.

A letter from NHS officials says there will be "minimal allocations" in the first part of next week, with areas expected to end the week in a "near-zero stock position".

It comes as scientists said both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines are "working better than we could have hoped".

A real world study of people over 80 by the University of Bristol found that one dose of the jab offered around 80 per cent protection against hospitalisation within just two weeks. Previous studies had shown such impact after about a month.

Vaccination centres are being asked to try to get jabs to the most difficult cases, such as housebound people, while stocks are low next week. They have been told to use the lull to gear up for a bumper supply in the week starting March 15.

Health chiefs say centres will be expected to deliver around twice as many jabs as they are now, with increases sustained for several weeks.

A letter from Dr Nikki Kanani, the medical director for Primary Care, sent to sites across the country, says: "There will be minimal allocations of new vaccine in the first part of the week commencing March 8, reflecting national supply available to the programme.

"However, we are expecting substantial increased supply in the volume of vaccine available into [the] week of March 15 and are therefore asking you to start planning now.

"From March 11, vaccine supply will increase substantially and be sustained at a higher level for several weeks. Therefore, from the week of March 15 we are now asking systems to plan and support all vaccination centres and local vaccination services to deliver around twice the level of vaccine available in the week of 1 March."

In the coming weeks, growing numbers of those given the first vaccines will return for second doses, 12 weeks after their first, while the programme continues to work through younger age groups.