Problems with the coronavirus vaccine rollout to GPs were laid bare after it emerged that a surgery visited by Matt Hancock to promote the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab had not yet received any supplies when the health secretary was there.
On Thursday morning Hancock said doses of the vaccine were being supplied to GP practices across the country as he visited the Bloomsbury surgery in central London. However, he conceded the “rate-limiting” factor in efforts to get people vaccinated was supply from the manufacturers.
Standing in front of Dr Ammara Hughes’s surgery, the health secretary said: “It’s great news this morning that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is from right now being rolled out to GP surgeries across the country.
“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 like this one can do all the vaccinations that are needed.
“The rate-limiting step is the supply of vaccine. We’re working with the companies – both Pfizer and AstraZeneca – to increase the supply.”
It was confirmed on Thursday evening that the surgery he visited later took delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said Hancock’s visit to the surgery was akin to a scene from political satire The Thick of It, but added: “Sadly, it’s no laughing matter.”
He tweeted: “This should be a clear reminder to ministers to move and heaven [sic] to get vaccination widely rolled out ASAP. We’re in a race against time and we need to start with 2 million jabs a week urgently.”
Dr Hughes said Hancock was “quite surprised actually to learn that we don’t know when all of our deliveries are coming, they’re very ad hoc”. The surgery has been administering the Pfizer vaccine since the middle of December and has so far received three deliveries.
Dr Hughes added: “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.
“We won’t start vaccinating within the surgery with our AstraZeneca doses until we’ve finished our Pfizer vaccines.”
Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer have said they are on track to deliver vaccines as agreed with the government.
The government announced nearly 1.5 million people had now been inoculated against Covid-19.
PA Media contributed to this report