Thursday, May 13, 2021
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Now India delays jabs bound for UK in new vaccine blow amid EU row

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Britain’s vaccine supply setback took a new turn today when it emerged that India’s government had delayed five million doses of the Oxford jab being sent to the UK.

The worry was that Delhi’s action, delaying half of a 10 million-dose shipment, could intensify the global scramble for vaccines. It came as Europe’s “third wave” Covid-19 crisis worsened, with Germany reporting the biggest increase in cases since January.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, which is making the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for the UK and other countries, tweeted that his company had been “directed to prioritise the huge needs of India”.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said it was “disappointing” and “a bit of a setback”, and would mean the doses available in April would mainly go on giving second jabs to older people.

“The impact of this shortage of supplies will happen on the group that we were hoping to start on in April, which is the people under the age of 50 without any pre-existing conditions, who are now going to have to wait until May,” he told the BBC’s Today programme. Asked if the delay would be a month, he said: “Exactly right, that’s what it looks like.”

In developments as the virus took hold in much of Europe:

  • The World Health Organisation’s European director backed the Oxford jab as safe. Benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any risks, and countries across Europe should continue to use it to help save lives in the pandemic, Hans Kluge said.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron was due to impose tighter restrictions on Paris to stop a surge in Covid infections.
  • The number of confirmed cases in Germany jumped by 17,504 to 2,612,268, the biggest daily rise since January 22, with the reported death toll rising by 227 to 74,132.
  • Poland reported 27,278 new daily coronavirus cases today, the highest number so far this year.
  • Bulgaria is to close schools, restaurants and shopping malls until the end of this month as it battles a surge in infections that have stretched its hospitals, health minister Kostadin Angelov said.
  • The Moderna vaccine manufacturers said they expect to begin deliveries to the UK next month.
  • Scientists at Oxford University said existing vaccines may protect more than first thought against the Brazil variant of the virus.

Europe’s drug watchdog was due to report today on claims that the Oxford jab was linked to a small number of reports of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet counts in patients.

He went on: “It’s not shortage of supply from India or elsewhere. AstraZeneca is a global production and supply chains in vaccines are global.”

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