UK’s Covid jab shortage 'caused by India delaying 5million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for under-50s'

THE SHORTFALL in Britain's vaccine supply is somewhat due to a delay in a shipment from India of five million AstraZeneca jabs.

The delivery of doses has been held up by FOUR WEEKS, sparking fears the setback could delay the UK's return to freedom.

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The suppliers, the Serum Institute of India, said countries are keeping a firm grip on their supplies, which restricts vital access to materials needed to produce more.

It is feared the impediment could impact the UK's return to normality next month.

A spokesperson for the Serum Institute said, "Five million doses had been delivered a few weeks ago to the UK and we will try to supply more later, based on the current situation and the requirement for the government immunisation programme in India," the BBC reports.

It comes as India's Prime Minister issued a stark warning that "we will face trouble" if the surge in coronavirus cases – reaching 11.4 million – is not brought under control.

"If we do not stop the pandemic right now, then there will be a nationwide break. We have to take immediate steps to stop the emerging second peak. Or else we will face trouble," PM Narendra Modi said.

He urged leaders to take quick action, as the country, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has the third highest death toll globally.

It is feared locals have now taken a lax approach to preventive measures, as people stopped wearing masks, some venues reopened and large gatherings recommenced.

"Maharashtra is already facing a second wave. The need of the hour is to ramp up the vaccination drive further," Dr Rommel Tickoo of Max Healthcare told Sky News.

Several districts and cities, including across Maharashtra, have been submerged into full or partial lockdowns or have had curfews enforced.

However, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the shortage in supply was not the responsibility of a single factory nor a country.

The UK's vaccine supply may be less "than we might have hoped for in the coming weeks but we expect it to increase again through the course of April," he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will address MP's today to discuss the stalled shipment of doses.

He claims to have become aware of the issues "in the last few days".

The Department of Health also worked to reassure people, insisting that all adults are still on track to receive a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July.

Yet a series of significant setbacks have others questioning if that goal is achievable, as most Brits in their 40's were warned they will have to wait until May for their jabs, due to the lack of supply.

The supply issue was also flagged by NHS England in a letter to local health organisations this week, as it is expected to be exacerbated in April.

It warned "volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained" over the next month.

Jenrick suggested the vaccine rollout may be "slightly slower than we might have hoped but not slower than the target we had set ourselves." 

The UK hoped to inoculate all those aged over 50 by April 15 and all adults by the end of July

However, over 50s have been left dithering for a dose, as the NHS pledged to use the remaining vaccine supply to offer it again to older people who originally turned it down.

Hancock responded to questions regarding the letter at a Downing Street press conference.

"As I said, the supply is always lumpy and we are on course to deliver the offer that everybody whose aged 50 and above will be able to get vaccinated by the end of April," he said.

"Of course these supply schedules have moved up and down throughout the rollout, its absolutely par for the course, it's a normal operational letter."

But Jenrick remained optimistic for next month, saying: "The month of April will be different – and it was always going to be – because I think this will be the month that second jabs exceed first jabs."

Nearly one in two Brit adults have now had their first Covid jab, with 25.3 million now vaccinated against the pandemic.

But experts warned it will have a "ripple effect" on the nationwide rollout.

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said: “It will undoubtedly make the meeting of the target dates for lifting restrictions more difficult than they otherwise would have been.

“By pushing back the under-50s first doses, their second doses are also being pushed back.

“If full vaccination becomes required for holidays abroad or even more mundane things like going to the cinema, millions of younger people may end up being excluded from participating for the whole summer."

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