UK’s vaccination drive hit as Serum Institute ‘delays’ supply


2021-03-18 18:26:56

LONDON: The UK’s vaccine rollout “has been hampered” due to the delay in delivery of a promised second batch of five million doses by the Serum Institute of India.
A leaked letter, dated March 17, from NHS chief commercial officer Emily Lawson to vaccination centres, ordered them not to book any new appointments from March 29 to April 30.
The letter also advises them to focus on giving jabs only to those in the top 1 to 9 cohorts, who are most vulnerable to the Covid infection, and on administering the second jabs, owing to “an upcoming shortage in supply”.
“There will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers happening 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,” the letter states.
The Serum Institute had delivered five million AstraZeneca vaccines to Britain in early March and a further five million were expected imminently. But the vaccine-maker told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the second batch of five million further doses will only be delivered once the company was given the green light by New Delhi, which is concerned about rising cases in India.
“It is solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with SII. It is to do with the Indian government allowing more doses to the UK,” CEO of SII Adar Poonawalla told the Telegraph.
The BBC quoted an SII spokesman as saying: “Five million doses had been delivered a few weeks ago to the UK and we will try to supply more later, based on the current situation and the requirement for the government immunisation programme in India.”
SII is manufacturing one billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed all over the world.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock issued a statement on Thursday in the House of Commons, saying: “The process of manufacturing vaccines is complicated and subject to unpredictability. We are currently, right now, in the middle of some bumper weeks of supply. We have had a batch of 1.7 million doses delayed because of the need to re-test its stability. Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity, and this shows the rigour of our safety checks. We also have a delay in a scheduled arrival from the Serum Institute of India.”
The 1.7 million which are being retested by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are not from India, TOI has established.
At a press briefing on Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will get vaccinated on Friday with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, said, “It is true that in the short-term we are receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for. That is because of a delay from the Serum Institute and a batch in the UK that needs to get retested. I want to thank the SII for their heroic role in producing huge quantities of the vaccine. The Indian government hasn’t stopped any export. There is a delay, as there is very frequently in vaccine rollout programmes, but this is by no means the end of the story of the UK’s relationship with the SII and we hope to make further progress over the weeks and months ahead. There is a huge amount of work we want to do together and this is just the beginning. The Indian government has not delayed the export. The delay had been caused by various technical reasons and the UK hopes to continue to work very closely with the SII and with partners around the world, including in Europe. This is a big international effort,” he said.



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