COVID-19: Surgery visited by Matt Hancock to mark Oxford/AstraZeneca jab rollout has delivery of it delayed

·4-min read

The GP surgery visited by the health secretary to mark the expanded rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has not yet received any of it.

Matt Hancock was at Bloomsbury Surgery in Camden, north London on Thursday, as the government's plans to offer a COVID-19 jab to the most vulnerable by the middle of next month stepped up a gear.

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But GP Ammara Hughes said the first delivery of the jab to the surgery has been delayed by 24 hours.

She said: "We were expecting our first AstraZeneca 400 today, but we've had a pushback for 24 hours so we're now getting that delivery tomorrow."

Dr Hughes added: "It's just more frustrating than a concern, because we've got the capacity to vaccinate and if we had a regular supply, we do have the capacity to vaccinate three to four thousand patients a week.

"We have been running since the middle of December, and on our busiest days we can vaccinate 500 people easily.

"If we could get the AstraZeneca, then we could easily vaccinate 500 a day, which would ease the pressure on the health service and we could get more and more people vaccinated quickly and hopefully get out of the pandemic."

Asked if she had raised the issue with the health secretary, Dr Hughes said she had.

"The health secretary was quite surprised actually to learn that we don't know when all of our deliveries are coming, they're very ad hoc," she continued.

"He has said he'll take that back and look into it and see if we can be ensured regular deliveries."

Dr Hughes said the surgery had been administering the Pfizer vaccine since the middle of December and had so far received three deliveries of that jab.

"So we've continued to vaccinate with Pfizer in the surgery, and what we're hoping to do with the AstraZeneca when it arrives is to go out to the most clinically vulnerable and housebound. So that's what we'll be doing," she explained.

"We won't start vaccinating within the surgery with our AstraZeneca doses until we've finished our Pfizer vaccines."

But she said there had been some issues with the timing of deliveries that meant the surgery had been unable to book second vaccine doses for patients.

"It seems like there's obviously been a supply problem or an issue in terms of getting those deliveries out to us," Dr Hughes said.

"What I said to the health secretary today was, we are willing, we are able, you get us the vaccines, we will deliver.

"That's the simple message from all of my primary colleagues who have gone out and set up vaccination sites across the country."

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the scenes were akin to "something from the Thick of It", the TV series that satirised the inner workings of government.

"But sadly it's no laughing matter," he continued, saying it should act as a "clear reminder" to ministers to "get the vaccination widely rolled out ASAP".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said vaccination centres and GP surgeries needed better information about vaccine deliveries in order to meet the jab target.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccine centre in east London, he said: "What I've heard here is that they want, above all else, is to know how many doses, how many batches they are getting so they can plan into the next few weeks.

"That's the challenge for the government. We need to ramp-up, we need two million jabs a week - that is a job and a half.

"In order to do that, we need better planning, people need to know when the vaccine is coming."

Sky News has contacted the Department of Health for a response to Dr Hughes's comments.

Speaking outside the surgery earlier, Mr Hancock said it was "great news" that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was being rolled out to GP surgeries.

He added: "For the first three days with the Oxford vaccine we did it in hospitals, to check that it was working well and it's working well, so now we can make sure that it gets to all those GP surgeries that can do all the vaccinations that are needed.

"The rate limiting step is the supply of vaccine and we're working with the companies, both Pfizer and of course AstraZeneca, to increase the supply.

"I want to thank all the GP surgeries who have been working hard to get the vaccine out so far and are now going to have more vaccine coming through so that they can get all of those vulnerable groups vaccinated."

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have said they are on track to deliver vaccines as agreed with the government.

The UK has set a target of offering a jab to everyone in the top four priority groups - just under 14 million people - by the middle of February.

When he announced England's third national lockdown earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said protecting those most vulnerable to the virus would allow the government to begin considering easing restrictions.