Matt Hancock to address Parliament today – fears grow over delay to lockdown exit

Dr Hilary says vaccine supply issue could ‘delay’ lifting of lockdown

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The Health Secretary will give a statement to the House at 12.30pm to address concerns over a drop of supply in April. A letter sent to local health leaders in England last night asked vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led services to “ensure no further appointments are uploaded” to booking systems in April.

The Government’s Vaccine Taskforce “currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply”, the letter said.

NHS bosses said that as a result, people under the age of 50 should only get the jab if they are in a priority group for the vaccine.

Last week vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK would receive bumper shipments of jabs throughout March and into April.

Mr Hancock yesterday sought to play down concerns of a shortage of vaccines, saying supply was “always lumpy” and insisted the Government was on track to meet its target of giving a first injection to all over-50s by April 15 and all adults by the end of July.

Responding to concerns about the letter, he said: “We are on course to deliver the offer that everybody who is aged 50 and above will be able to get vaccinated by the 15th of April. I recommit to that today.

“And, of course, these supply schedules have moved up and down throughout this whole rollout.

“It’s absolutely par for the course and that’s a normal operation letter.

“We are committed to all adults being able to get the jab by the end of July and we are on track to deliver on that commitment.”

However, Labour is demanding answers over the sudden announcement of a supply drop.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders told the BBC yesterday: “Ministers were saying things were going very well in terms of vaccine supply only this morning, so something has gone very badly wrong in the last couple of hours.”

The party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged Mr Hancock to explain what these supply issues were and how the Government was aiming to resolve them.

“Trying to dismiss or downplay the legitimate concerns of anxious people waiting for a vaccine is simply not good enough,” Mr Ashworth added.

More to follow…

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