'Second doses will go ahead as planned' - Hancock gives Covid jab reassurances

Vaccine administration at Constable Country Medical Practice.  

Vaccine administration at Constable Country Medical Practice. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Reassurances are being made that all over-50s will receive the second dose of their Covid vaccine on time despite national supply issues.

A reduction in the UK's Covid vaccine supply in April is partly due to a delay in a delivery from India of five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.

NHS England has said second doses will not be affected and second dose appointments will go ahead.

First doses will continue until March 29.

Dr Dan Poulter

Dr Dan Poulter suspects the Covid vaccine supply issues will have less impact locally as the rollout is ahead of schedule in Suffolk - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: "I suspect reduced supply of the vaccine may slow down the rollout nationally but as we are now well ahead of schedule in Suffolk, I suspect it will have less effect locally.

"The most important thing is that the over-50s and other vulnerable groups receive their second doses of the vaccine on time, and I have been reassured that will definitely still be the case."

Health Watch Suffolk CEO Andy Yacoub. Picture GREGG BROWN

Healthwatch Suffolk CEO Andy Yacoub - Credit: Archant

Andy Yacoub, chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: "There is naturally a great deal of expectation on the system’s ability to deliver the vaccine, and members of the public have suggested that the availability of information prior to appointments could be improved upon.

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"We all must have confidence that system leaders will transparently communicate with those whose appointments are already booked, in order to allay any fears of delays, while working to resolve any issues that may arise as the weeks continue."

He added it was "important to recognise and commend the remarkable effort our local system has achieved through the Covid-19 vaccine rollout".

"Suffolk remains the second-best performing area for vaccinations, while testing levels are continuing to improve. This doesn't happen by chance, and can also not happen without the help of the very many volunteers involved every day" he said.

"Although warnings of oncoming supply strains are bound to initially cause alarm, it’s imperative that all of us in Suffolk make full use of whatever is provided, whenever it is offered."

It is understood the supply issues have led to a major rethink in terms of vaccine planning at the three local clinical commissioning groups, NHS West Suffolk CCG, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS North East Essex CCG.

The impact is likely to be those aged under-50 having to wait a bit longer to get their vaccine.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was still on track to deliver on the "targets to offer the vaccine to everyone 50 and over, and all adults by the end of July".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Cov

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said "second doses will go ahead as planned" - Credit: PA

He also said there will be no weeks in April with no first doses because of vaccine shortages.

He said: "There will be no cancelled appointments as a result of supply issues - second doses will go ahead as planned."

NHS England also said they want those eligible from cohorts one to nine to book their jab now.

People aged 50 and over in England - the final group on the priority list - are currently being invited to book their appointment for a Covid vaccine.

If people who are eligible have vaccination appointments booked, they should still attend those appointments.

The government says it's still on track to offer a first dose to over-50s by April 15.

Last week we reported that this region was in an excellent position in terms of the vaccine rollout, with one in every two residents over 16 in Suffolk and north Essex having received their first dose.

Dr John Havard, from Saxmundham Health, added: "If the delays are for quality assurance reasons then we have to work around it as we need to be certain that all batches the vaccines are safe and effective.

"If the shortage is because supplies are being re-directed preferentially to India where the need is greater, then of course we should support that and amend our plans accordingly.

"Covid is a world problem and we are planning to raise money for the UNICEF COVAX charity at our forthcoming clinics so patients have the opportunity to help purchase vaccines for communities in poorer parts of the world where there is no NHS and vaccines are not free.

"The UK vaccination programme has been very successful to date but, when it comes to infectious diseases, we are not an island."