MATT Hancock has been left red-faced after visiting a GP surgery for the vaccine rollout – but the delivery didn’t arrive.
The Health Secretary said it was “great news” the Oxford AstraZenaca vaccine would start being delivered to GPs but warned the supply of jabs would be the biggest hurdle.
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In a visit to the Bloomsbury Surgery in London, Mr Hancock said: “It is 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 of 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 it gets to all those GP surgeries, like this one, that can do all the vaccinations that are needed.”
And after warning the only step that would slow down the roll out was the supply of vaccines, it was revealed the Bloomsbury Surgery Mr Hancock was visiting had had its first supply of the Oxford vaccine delayed.
GP Ammara Hughes can be overheard telling the Health Secretary it was critical the surgery receive regular delivery slots – after the delivery of the first batch of Oxford jabs was pushed back by 24 hours.
Dr Hughes told Sky News: “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 said the surgery had the capacity to give many more patients protection from coronavirus – but that vaccine delivers were “ad hoc”.
GPs at the practice had even been unable to book patients in for their second dose of the Pfizer jab because of unpredictable delivery times.
Dr Hughes said she when she told Mr Hancock to sort out the deliveries, he was surprised to learn they hadn’t arrived.
“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.”
“We’re ready to do it,” Dr Hughes said, “We’re willing, so if we can have the vaccines – we’re ready to go.”
When asked about delays, Mr Hancock said manufacturers were delivering to a schedule and “that schedule is the amount of vaccine that we have and that’s what GPs will now be delivering”.
The Oxford AstraZeneca jab has boosted hopes of lockdown being lifted once the 13 million most vulnerable people are vaccinated – as the vaccine is easier to store than the Pfizer jab, which requires storage at minus 70 degrees.
Around 1,000 different sites are set to deliver the vaccine by the end of the week, and Boris Johnson is preparing to hold a press conference this evening, laying out plans to supercharge the vaccination program.
Military personnel will be used across the country to help distribute the jabs to help meet the PM’s ambitious target to vaccinate 13 million Brits by mid-February.
Government insiders insisted that the deployment was military planners rather than troops at this stage.