Matt Hancock today warned that the Covid vaccine rollout will suffer a dip this week — but there will be a bump in March to compensate for the lag.
The Health Secretary said a delay in the supply schedule will result in less jabs being dished out.
Official figures showed Britain only administered 150,000 vaccines on Sunday, in the worst daily performance since the NHS roll-out began to gather speed last month.
With a rapid inoculation drive crucial to Britain’s hopes of lockdown being eased in the next few months, critics say there is ‘no excuse’ for the roll-out slowing down.
Think-tank bosses believe it is unlikely supply is solely behind the downturn because there would be reports of centres across the country running out of stock — which hasn’t been the case.
James Lawson, a fellow at think-tank the Adam Smith Institute, said the virus ‘doesn’t rest’ and neither should the mammoth NHS operation.
Boris Johnson put a successful vaccine roll-out at the heart of his lockdown-easing plan, which he unveiled yesterday.
So long as the operation continues successfully, all restrictions could be dropped in England by June 21. Any hiccups could threaten that target.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that the vaccine rollout is going to suffer a dip this week but there will be a bump in March to compensate
Mr Hancock revealed vaccine roll-out figures will continue to stay low for the rest of the week in an interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari.
He said it will be a ‘quieter week’ for the vaccine rollout because of a drop in supply, warning that the success of the drive was ‘all about supply’.
‘Compelling’ real-world data from Scotland shows one dose of either jab cuts risk of being hospitalised by up to 95%
Covid vaccines being used in Britain are working ‘spectacularly well’ and cutting hospital admissions caused by the virus by as much as 95 per cent, according to the first real-world evidence of the roll-out.
Researchers yesterday called the results ‘very encouraging’ and claimed they provided ‘compelling evidence’ that they can prevent severe illness.
Scientists counted Covid hospital admissions in Scotland among people who had had their first dose of a jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a ray of hope for Britain’s lockdown-easing plans, results showed the jabs slashed the risk of being admitted to hospital with Covid by up to 85 and 94 per cent, respectively, four weeks after a single dose.
The study — carried out by academics from the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde, as well as Public Health Scotland — was the first of its kind. But it currently doesn’t have enough data to analyse how well the jabs prevent death or stop transmission of the virus.
Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh said: ‘These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence that vaccination provides protection against Covid hospitalisations.
‘Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.’
Mr Hancock added: ‘We have got a quieter week this week and then we’re going to have some really bumper weeks in March.’
Pointing the blame at vaccine manufacturers, he also claimed there has been ‘ups and downs’ in the delivery schedule.
A spokesman for AstraZeneca said yesterday although there had been ‘fluctuations’ in supply at plants, they were still ‘on track’ with orders.
Pfizer also confirmed to MailOnline yesterday there were ‘no UK supply challenges’ and deliveries were arriving as planned.
The drug firm did see delays to deliveries in Europe last month because of upgrades to its production plant in Belgium, to ensure it could deliver more doses this year.
A spokesman said at the time they could confirm the ‘overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one (January to March)’.
Both companies have refused to reveal how many of these doses have already been delivered to the UK.
However, a Pfizer spokesman said they had delivered 21 shipments by early January. It is not clear how many doses were in each shipment.
Britain is racing to give as many first doses to over-50s as possible before the end of March, when millions of second jabs must be rolled out.
The Prime Minister has pledged to jab all 32million in the top nine groups by April 15 and every adult by the end of July.
But Department of Health statistics show just 360,000 doses were dished out every day last week, on average.
This is down 17 per cent on the rolling average of nearly 435,000 last Sunday. It is the lowest rate since January 22.
A total of 18.2million Covid vaccine doses have been given out so far, with 17.7million having received their first jab.
Figures reveal there has been an increase in the number of second doses dished out but not at levels high enough to spark any slowdown.
Critics have urged No10 to publish more detailed data on deliveries across the UK, so ‘pinch points’ in the drive can be identified and smoothed out.
James Lawson, a business strategist and fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, said the Government must stop the weekly fluctuations in the roll-out.
‘What we’ve spotted is there seems to be a persistent problem with the number of doses dropping over weekends,’ he told MailOnline.
‘And, while the Government has made huge progress in accelerating the vaccine rollout, there’s no excuse for this variability.
‘The virus doesn’t rest, the virus doesn’t sleep, the virus doesn’t stop at 6pm on a Friday and neither should the vaccine roll-out.’
Mr Lawson, who has written a paper on speeding up the rollout, said it was unclear what was sparking the fall inoculations because of the lack of data.
It was likely that both supply and distribution were playing a role in slowing down the rollout, he added, and that as soon as problems were solved in one area they tended to arise in another.