Britain’s rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is being limited by the supply of shots, and the government is working with both Pfizer and AstraZeneca to increase supplies, health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday.
“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,” Hancock told broadcasters.
“The manufacturers are doing a brilliant job, and they’re delivering to the schedule that’s agreed, but that schedule is the amount of vaccine that we have … we expect to see that amount of vaccine being delivered going up.”
He spoke after the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was rolled out in doctors surgeries from Thursday, part of an effort to vaccinate of the most vulnerable within six weeks.
More than 1.3 million people in the United Kingdom have received one shot of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Hancock said the aim was for most care home residents to be offered a shot by the end of January, with 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts reached by mid-February.
The government must ramp up shots to around two million a week to hit its target. The top priority groups include care home residents, the elderly, the clinically vulnerable, and frontline health and social care workers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that if the vaccine rollout goes to plan, new lockdown measures introduced this week could start to be eased in February. Johnson will give a news conference later on Thursday.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine was first deployed in hospitals on Monday. It does not have the ultra-low temperature requirements that Pfizer’s does, making it easier to roll out.
Initial boxes of the Pfizer vaccine contained nearly 1,000 doses, but the NHS said that smaller boxes of Pfizer’s vaccine had also been approved for use that could be used in settings like care homes without wasting doses.