England’s Covid vaccine programme could slow sharply, Sage says | Health policy
The pace of first-dose vaccinations looks set to slow significantly for several weeks after a downwards revision in official forecasts and a delay in the import of 5 million doses from India now expected to last until at least June.
A modelling paper produced for the Sage scientific advisory committee said the pace of England’s vaccination programme could be squeezed to 2.7m a week until the end of July, leaving little surplus for first doses until tens of millions of second doses had been administered.
Published on Monday, the paper said that “the central rollout scenario” provided to academics by the Cabinet Office was considerably slower than previously used.
That, the document added, amounted to “an average of 2.7m doses per week in England until the end of July (2m thereafter)”, which was compared with “3.2m per week in the previous iteration (3.9m thereafter)”.
The projections form part of the model, published on Monday, used by academics from Imperial College London and Warwick University to estimate how coronavirus could spread as restrictions are progressively unlocked by the government.
Ministers have consistently refused to spell out how much of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines will be available in future, leaving the officially sanctioned projections cited in modelling papers as the best available public predictions.
Ministers had also hoped to import 5m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute in India to boost UK supply in the coming weeks. But in a further setback to the UK’s plans, the chief executive of the Indian company said that any exports would be delayed until June at the earliest.
Adar Poonawalla said the company, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has “chosen to prioritise India temporarily for two months” in response to a surge in coronavirus cases in its home market – and that the delay could continue after that.
“We are going to have to keep supplying to India, and not anywhere else. Because we have to protect our nation,” he said, admitting that decision had put a “strain on our contractual obligations” to provide vaccines to other countries.
In England, the requirement for second doses in England rises to between 2.1m and 2.4m a week from the middle of April, in response to the speeding up of the vaccination programme during January. On paper, that leaves only a small surplus for new first doses of a few hundred thousand a week.
vs last week
vs last week
Weekly change shows difference from 7 days ago.
% of total population to have received a first or second dose.