THE "HICCUP" in vaccine supplies coming into the UK could threaten the easing of lockdown, Dr Hilary Jones has warned.
If Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown goes to plan then normal life could resume by the summer, with all restrictions being lifted.
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The NHS yesterday revealed that there will be a "significant reduction" in the availability of Covid vaccines throughout April.
The blow means anyone under the age of 50 will now have to wait longer for their jab.
The reasons why are unclear, with contradictory comments coming from jab makers, ministers and NHS sources.
A leaked NHS letter yesterday said first doses will be “significantly constrained” due to a “significant reduction in supply from manufacturers”.
But vaccine makers claim there is nothing wrong at their end.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said vaccines remain “on track” and that every adult will get their first jab by the end of July.
We’ve always been told it’s going to be done on data, not dates. In a way, it was a mistake to give people dates to look forward to
But Dr Hilary said that if vaccines are delayed then lockdown could be extended.
Speaking on ITV's Lorraine this morning he said: "It’s not going to delay those who have got their booking for the first dose nor for the second dose.
"It’s imperative those who are due a second dose and there’s no reason to believe that will be delayed.
"However, those people under 50, who are expected to be called up in the second half of April, they may have to wait a month or so if the vaccine supply is curtailed to some extent."
Lorraine quizzed Dr Hilary as to whether or not this would have implications on the easing of lockdown restrictions and he said: "It might have.
"Easing of lockdown depends on several factors, not just the vaccination schedule and the rollout.
"It depends on the R-rate, the infection rate, it depends on hospitalisations, how the NHS is working. All sorts of things.
"We’ve always been told it’s going to be done on data, not dates. In a way, it was a mistake to give people dates to look forward to."
Dr Hilary said the problem with supply is coming from a manufacturing plant in India.
He added: "When you're making a vaccine it's like a production line, if there's a problem on the production line then it's going to affect the process of producing a vaccine.
"It's a biological process, quite complex, one little thing can go awry and it means that one batch, where you want quality control and safety which is very heavily regulated – it has to be, it might be a million doses in once batch".
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night, Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said data from vaccinated healthcare workers in Scotland suggests that immunised Brits are far less likely to pass on the virus.
This shows how effective the vaccine has been at pulling down infections and keeping the population protected.
She told the Downing Street briefing: “Data from Scotland suggests vaccinated healthcare workers have a 30 per cent lower chance of passing infection on to their household contacts.
“This is the first evidence we have of a reduction in transmission from vaccination.
“This means the more people we vaccinate, the more we reduce the spread of infection.”
The news comes as a huge boost in the fight against the pandemic, as experts were previously uncertain about whether vaccines would prevent transmission.
It means that, with more Brits inoculated, transmission of the virus will remain low – preventing a further wave of infections and the possible emergence of new strains.
Dr Hilary this morning said that planned events could once again be postponed if vaccines were delayed.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain today he said: "This hiccup in vaccine supply could threaten the easing of lockdown if it delays things, it could delay the under 40s getting their jabs on time to meet the criteria for the schedule.
"It means people's holidays could be delayed, weddings could be delayed, that is the consequence."
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading also said that more events may have to be delayed.
He added: "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."
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