Although the death toll from Covid-19 in Britain now exceeds 125,000, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outpaced the rest of Europe with a vaccination program that has already provided first doses to more than 25 million people.
But that giddying pace is set to slow as a result of the delay in the delivery of about 4 million doses from India, underscoring the extent to which even successful vaccination programs are at the mercy of supply chains.
In April, Britain will concentrate on completing vaccinations of those 50 and above, and those who have medical conditions, as well as administering a second shot to 12 million people who were the first to be treated. That is a priority because the second injection needs to be done within 12 weeks of the first inoculation, Mr. Hancock said.
“The problem at the moment is that there is no spare capacity, every single factory that could possibly turn out a vaccine is working 24 hours, seven days a week to try and do that, but inevitably there are problems,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation and a scientific adviser to the British government.
What must be avoided is “this idea of export controls and nationalism,” Professor Farrar said. “Contracts need to be honored,” he added.
Holding that line looks increasing hard. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, told the BBC that his company had been permitted to export 50 percent of the 95 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it produces.
“Having said that, the government wanted to scale up its vaccination drive, they needed the maximum volumes they could get from us,” he said. “And that is why I had to send out a message to all our partners that were expecting more doses in these two to three months only that they would be facing a few delays.”