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Covid-19 vaccine delay: Full NHS letter on ‘significant’ supply reduction that means under-50s will have to wait longer

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Britain’s record-breaking Covid-19 vaccination programme has suffered a setback after it was revealed supply issues will delay the rollout to under-50s.

The letter, from NHS England’s chief commercial officer Emily Lawson and Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director for primary care, warns the problem is likely to hit from 29 March and last for four weeks. It says people aged 49 years or younger should not be offered vaccinations unless they are in a higher priority group.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Following our letter to you on 2 March, we are writing to update you on the latest position on vaccine supply and deployment over the next six weeks.

From the start of the programme, the NHS has successfully had to adjust week-to-week vaccine delivery in the light of fluctuations in supply. As previously notified, pleasingly this week and next see significant increases in vaccine supply. However, the Government’s Vaccines Task Force have now notified us that there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning in the week commencing 29 March, meaning volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained. They now currently predict this will continue for a four-week period, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply.

We have today opened up national booking to everyone aged 50 and over, so over this next period it is vital we focus on vaccinating those in cohorts 1 – 9, who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as delivering to the agreed schedule significantly increased numbers of second doses, which double from the beginning of April.

Maximising uptake in Cohorts 1 to 9

We are asking systems to renew efforts, working with local authorities, the voluntary, community and faith sectors and other local partners to ensure maximum cohort penetration, offering and re-offering vaccinations to those in Cohort 1 to 9.

Guidance published in February on ‘pop up centres’ allows local systems to set up temporary mobile vaccination clinics in areas with lower uptake rates, at places of worship and other community settings where those from eligible cohorts who have not presented at fixed vaccination sites may feel more welcome.

Local systems will also want to consider dedicated sessions for groups with specific access requirements, extend visits to housebound patients and schedule second or third care home visits, ensuring those at greatest risk have access to the vaccine.

The letter was sent to vaccination sites, NHS Trusts and regional directors outlining the next steps on vaccine uptake and supplies

/ PA

STPs and ICS should also consider how the £4.2m non-recurring funding announced on 24 February to further support and enable locally led community engagement on vaccine confidence can be used to support this activity. The letter setting out the funding arrangements can be found here https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/supporting-ccgs-to-addressvaccine-inequalities/

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