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Matt Hancock reveals 1.7m Covid vaccine doses delay but insists ‘there will be no weeks in April with no first jabs’

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Matt Hancock has insisted “there will be no weeks in April with no first doses” of the coronavirus vaccine as he revealed a batch of 1.7million doses was delayed to be retested.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the Health Secretary said the Government was still on track to meet its targets of offering a vaccine to everyone 50 and over by April 15, and to all adults by the end of July.

The statement came as questions swirled around the impact of supply delays on Britain’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout, after an NHS letter warned of “significant reduction” in available doses from 29 March.

He confirmed a delay in a shipment from India’s Serum Institute, that is making AstraZeneca’s shot – and revealed that, separately, a batch of 1.7 million doses had been delayed as it had to be retested. He did not specify the manufacturer.

“Events like this are to be expected in the manual in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity,” he told MPs.

Mr Hancock added: “The targets to offer a vaccine to everyone aged 50 or over by April 15 and to all adults by the end of July, I can confirm we are on track to meet both of these targets.

“I also want to clear up some rumours that have been circulating and give people reassurance. There will be no weeks in April with no first doses. There will be no cancelled appointments as a result of supply issues – second doses will go ahead as planned.

“Most importantly, the vaccine data published yesterday shows the life-saving impact of this vaccine. It’s not just that the vaccines are safe, it’s that they make you safe – you are much safer having had one.”

He added that the UK was “currently in the middle of some bumper weeks” in supply that has helped drive the number of people who have received a jab to 25 million.

But the new delays, and the need to provide second doses within 12 weeks, means people in their 40s are facing a longer wait to be vaccinated.

However Mr Hancock said that the vaccine supply issues will have “no impact on the road map” out of lockdown.

He told the Commons: “So, therefore, to any member of the public who is watching, what I would say very clearly is that the vaccination programme is on track to meet the targets that we have set out.”

Mr Hancock added: “He asks rightly about the road map. We are on track for the dates in the road map and there is no impact on the road map from the changes to vaccine supply that we’ve been detailing in the last 24 hours.”

He said: “It is likely that we will need a vaccination booster programme in the autumn, not least to deal with new variants, but that is, again, not yet certain.”

Earlier, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said that supplies would pick up again in May.

Britain is on track to have given a first shot to half of all adults in the next few days, making it one of the fastest countries to roll out a vaccine.

So far 25.27 million people in the United Kingdom have had a vaccine, around 48 per cent of adults.

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