As the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last week, Lancashire and South Cumbria had set its sights on offering both jabs to all over-18s by 31st July – the same day that the government is aiming for all adults to have had the offer of just their first injection.
It emerged on Wednesday that the UK is facing a slowdown in the supply of vaccine from the end of this month and throughout April.
The department for health and social care says that the nation is nevertheless still on track to hit its 31st July target of offering a single dose to all over-18s – as well as meeting a separate aim to have offered a first jab to all over-50s and those with certain underlying health conditions by 15th April.
However, NHS England has said that vaccines should not be offered to the under-50s at any point during April unless they are eligible because they fall into a priority group.
It seems likely that that edict will have an effect on Lancashire and South Cumbria’s ambitions for a more rapid rollout of the jabs.
As part of its plan to complete the entire vaccine programme by 31st July, the region is aiming to have offered the whole adult population an initial jab by 8th May.
Before that, the area hopes to have made first dose offers to all over-50s by the end of this month – just at the point that the reduction in supply is expected to kick in.
A meeting of the Lancashire health and wellbeing board last week heard that the region’s aspirations were dependent on supply and could not be guaranteed.
Asked on Thursday about the implications for the local programme of the national supply slowdown, a spokesperson for the Lancashire and South Cumbria integrated care system (ICS) said: “Partners across Lancashire and South Cumbria are working really hard to make sure that we’re vaccinating as many people as possible in line with the national guidelines.
“Our vaccination centres continue to vaccine those with an appointment as we work with the supplies we receive.
“It is really important that people with an appointment do attend, especially those with a second dose booked.”
The ICS referred further questions about the local impact of a slowdown in supply to the department for health and social care, which said in a statement:
“Health services across the UK are working tirelessly to vaccinate those most at risk and more than 25 million people have already received their first jab.
“The vaccination programme will continue in the coming weeks and more people will continue to receive first and second doses.
“As has been the case since the programme began, the number of vaccinations carried out over time will vary due to supply – but we remain on track to offer a first vaccine to over-50s by 15th April and all adults by 31st July.”
Meanwhile, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told the Commons on Thursday that the pressure on vaccine supplies was due to having to re-test the stability of 1.7m doses, as well as a delay to an expected delivery from India.
He added: “We have a huge number of second doses to deliver during April. Around 12 million people…will receive their second dose. These second doses cannot be delayed, as they have to be delivered within 12 weeks of the first dose.”
Mr. Hancock also said that no vaccine appointments that have already been booked would be cancelled.
“There will be no weeks in April with no first doses [and] there will be no cancelled appointments as a result of supply issues. Second doses will go ahead as planned,” the health secretary added.