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Reduced vaccine supply could slow lockdown easing, expert warns

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Reduced vaccine supplies could slow the easing of lockdown restrictions, an expert has warned, after health officials said volumes for first doses will be “significantly constrained” from the end of March.

More than 25 million people in the UK have now received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but the NHS has warned of a month-long “significant reduction” in weekly supply of the jabs next month.

A letter to local health leaders in England asked vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led services to “ensure no further appointments are uploaded” to booking systems in April.

NHS bosses said that as a result, people under the age of 50 should only get the jab if they are in a priority group for the vaccine.

Dr Simon Clarke associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said while it was not yet known why the delay had occurred, the “ripple effects could last for months”.

“It will undoubtedly make the meeting of the target dates for lifting restrictions more difficult than they otherwise would have been,” he said.

“By pushing back the under-50s first doses, their second doses are also being pushed back.

HEALTH Coronavirus / PA Graphics

“If full vaccination becomes required for holidays abroad or even more mundane things like going to the cinema, millions of younger people may end up being excluded from participating for the whole summer.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street press conference that vaccine supply was “always lumpy”, but insisted the nation was on track to meet the target of offering a first dose to all over-50s by April 15.

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged Mr Hancock to explain what these supply issues were and how the Government was aiming to resolve them.

“Trying to dismiss or downplay the legitimate concerns of anxious people waiting for a vaccine is simply not good enough,” Mr Ashworth added.

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