No-one will be left behind! Northamptonshire's vaccines boss' vow after NHS warns of delays
County still on target to deliver jabs to all over-50s and the most vulnerable by mid-April
The man leading Northamptonshire's Covid-19 vaccination says he is "determined no-one should be left behind" following the shock NHS warning of supply shortages.
Local teams are being told to only offer Covid-19 jabs to anyone under 50 in "exceptional circumstances" from March 29 — such as if they are clinically vulnerable or a front-line care worker.
Medics will focus on delivering first and second jabs to those in the top priority groups, which includes all those in the older age brackets and most vulnerable to Covid.
No appointments are being cancelled but any unfilled slots will be closed after next week.
Staff at Northamptonshire's mass vaccination centre at Moulton Park will be redeployed ahead of an expected "reduction in demand".
Chris Pallot, director of the county's Covid-19 vaccination programme, insisted: “We are confident of meeting the NHS’s commitment to offer first jabs to everyone aged 50 and over and in the top nine vaccination priority groups by mid-April.
"We are determined that no-one should be left behind.
"We will continue to focus our efforts and resources on reaching out to as many eligible people as possible who have not yet come forward for their first dose, while at the same time ensuring that second doses are administered to those people who are due them.”
Wednesday's news came just a few days after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi promised "tens of millions doses" were on their way.
That prompted the county's Covid-19 vaccination programme team to pledge: "Over the next few weeks, we have a number of additional sites that will be going live, which will enable us to deliver the vaccine to thousands more patients a day right across Northamptonshire.”
Less than six hours later NHS England warned in a letter sent to local vaccination sites that the UK faces a "significant reduction" in supplies for a four-week period.
It read: "The Government's Vaccines Task Force have now notified us that there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning 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, as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply."
The Moulton Park centre had only recently ramped up its weekly delivery of jabs to 1,700 with GP hubs and pharmacies taking capacity county-wide to over 25,000 a week.
But the NHS England letter is now telling local teams "revised vaccine supply is likely to result in a reduction in workforce demand. We are asking systems to start planning now about how they will deploy staff to alternative settings."
Despite the letter's strongly-worded language, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told last night's Downing Street briefing: "Vaccine supply is always lumpy and we regularly send out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs of the supply over the future weeks. What you're referring to is a standard one of those letters."
Mr Hancock also insisted the UK remains on target to offer a first dose to all 32 million people in the top nine priority groups by April 15.
Latest official figures showed just over 250,000 out of Northamptonshire's 650,000 target group had received a first dose by March 9. That number is due to be updated later today (Thursday).
March 29 is also when the next relaxation of restrictions is planned with the return of the 'rule of six' allowing people to mix outdoors for the first time since January 5.
Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown last month but warned the target dates depended on the vaccine roll-out going well and that Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put pressure on the NHS.
Latest figures show infection rates in part of Northamptonshire have jumped by more than 20 per cent in the last week or so.
Daily bulletins issued by the government showed Corby reported 136 positive tests during the last week — a seven-day rate of 188.3 per 100,000 people compared to 68.5 across in the rest of the county.