Jonathan Ashworth has accused Matt Hancock of attempting to “downplay legitimate concerns” over the Covid vaccine roll-out after the NHS sent a letter to local health authorities warning of a “significant reduction in weekly supply”.
Faced with questions on the letter at a Covid press conference this evening, the Health Secretary told those watching that the NHS regularly sends out “technical letters” on the supply of the jab and argued that it is “always lumpy”.
Commenting shortly after the press conference, Shadow Health Secretary Ashworth said: “People across the country will be anxious and worried that the booking of new first dose vaccination appointments will be paused form the end of March.
“Matt Hancock needed to explain exactly what these supply issues are and what he is doing to resolve them. Trying to dismiss or downplay the legitimate concerns of anxious people waiting for a vaccine is simply not good enough.”
Hancock insisted this evening that the government is on track to reach its target to offer the vaccine to all in priority groups one to nine identified by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation by April 15th.
But the letter sent to to local vaccination sites across the country warns that they will see a “significant reduction” of the Covid jab from March 29th onwards meaning that volumes for first doses will be “significantly constrained”.
The correspondence received by the local health authorities earlier today tells them that the reduction in supply is predicted to last for a period of four weeks “as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply”.
Asked whether the reduction in supply will mean that people aged under 50 will have to wait an extra month to get their jab, Hancock reiterated the commitment that all adults will be able to receive a vaccine by the end of July.
This latest news on the Covid vaccine roll-out comes hours after the government reported that the UK has now provided a first dose to more than 25 million people, with everyone over the age of 50 invited to come forward to get a jab.
Matt Hancock is asked to respond to an NHS letter which warns of a "significant" reduction in vaccine supply from 29 March.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 17, 2021