England’s Covid vaccine postcode lottery was laid bare again today as data revealed just a third of people aged between 50 and 54 have been inoculated in parts of the country.
And three boroughs — all of which are in London — have still yet to even reach 60 per cent of everyone over the age of 50, with at least 4million vulnerable people still yet to get jabbed across the nation.
Meanwhile, the Isles of Scilly and suburban commuter towns in Suffolk are among the best-performing parts of the country, reaching upwards of 90 per cent of over-50s.
The government is aiming to offer all over-50s one dose of vaccine by mid-April before lockdown is lifted. But the roll-out will be ‘paused’ in April because of supply issues, with GPs attempting to mop up eligible adults who have yet to accept their invite.
NHS England statistics show just 60 per cent of adults in the 50-54 age group had at least one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by March 21 — the most recent day local data is available for.
It comes after the NHS’s most senior doctor yesterday urged every eligible adult who has yet to be jabbed to book an appointment by Monday or risk having to wait weeks because of a supply shortage that will delay the roll-out in April.
MailOnline’s analysis of the figures shows parts of the country have vaccinated more than twice the proportion of 50- to 55-year-olds than others.
Eden in Cumbria, Burnley in Lancashire and Rutland in the East Midlands have all seen fewer than 40 per cent of people in the age group. For comparison, five areas of the country have vaccinated more than 80 per cent of the cohort.
They were: the Isles of Scilly (88 per cent), Mid Suffolk (82 per cent), East Cambridgeshire (81 per cent), Babergh in Suffolk (81 per cent) and Malvern Hills in Worcestershire (80 per cent).
Meanwhile, London is significantly lagging behind in the mammoth NHS drive, with nearly a quarter of over-80s still yet to have a first dose in Hackney — four months since the rollout began four the age group.
First doses are expected to be restricted from next week due to severe shortages in the vaccine supply, meaning millions of over-40s will likely have to wait until the end of April to be jabbed.
Vaccine centres in Devon, Cornwall and Kent are among those to have confirmed they will ‘have to pause’ during the month-long slowdown, which has been triggered by a shortfall of 5million AstraZeneca jabs from India. No10 is currently negotiating with Narenda Modi’s government to get the batch shipped over immediately.
Ministers are concerned anti-vaxx messages spread online are preventing people from taking up the offer of a jab, meaning millions of vulnerable Brits could still be at risk from the disease when it is allowed to spread when restrictions are eased. Ministers also have to account for jabs not being 100 per cent effective.
And the shortage in available doses from next week will further threaten the likelihood of a successful roll-out to the remaining 21million adults in Britain.
Just a third of people aged 50 to 55 had a jab in parts of England by March 21 despite the rollout being extended to the cohort last week, NHS figures have revealed
More than four million adults over 50 are yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine, amid warnings that supply shortages mean people seeking a jab should do so before the end of the week or risk missing out
Top 10 areas for the vaccine roll-out to people aged 50 to 55
Rutland, East Midlands
Kensington and Chelsea, London
35.2 per cent
39.5 per cent
39.9 per cent
40.3 per cent
40.5 per cent
42.5 per cent
Redcar and Cleveland, North East
43.0 per cent
43.0 per cent
43.1 per cent
43.5 per cent
Bottom 10 areas for the vaccine roll-out to people aged 50 to 55
Isles of Scilly
Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
88.0 per cent
82.3 per cent
81.5 per cent
81.0 per cent
80.2 per cent
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Selby, North Yorkshire
79.9 per cent
79.8 per cent
79.8 per cent
79.3 per cent
79.3 per cent
MailOnline’s analysis shows some 47 of areas of the country have yet to vaccinate half of adults between 50 and 55, with the proportion low in both remote areas of the North and inner city urban areas.
The lowest rate after Eden, Burnley, and Rutland was in Corby, Northamptonshire, where just 2,225 adults in the cohort have been vaccinated — an uptake rate of just 40.3 per cent.
It was followed by Newham (40.5 per cent) and Kensington and Chelsea (42.5 per cent), both in London, Northumberland in Cumbria (43 per cent), Pendle in Lancashire (43.1 per cent) and North Tyneside (43.1 per cent).
But looking at the figures for all over-50s presents a much different picture, where the lack of uptake among older cohorts sees London lagging behind the rest of the country.
Most people over 50 have now been invited for jabs, with NHS bosses now trying to mop up people who are hesitant. Over-80s were invited for a vaccination back in December.
All of the top 16 worst-performing areas for rollout among over-50s were in the capital , with Newham (59.3 per cent) and Kensington and Chelsea (59.4 per cent) being the worst and third worst respectively.
Westminster (59.3 per cent) was the second worst and Kensington and Chelsea was followed by Hackney (61 per cent), Lambeth (62.9 per cent), Hammersmith and Fulham (63 per cent)
Mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the UK have announced they will close temporarily next month due to looming supply issues. Vaccine centres in Devon, Cornwall and Kent are among those to have confirmed they will ‘have to pause’ during the month-long slowdown. If the rest of the country follows suit, it could mean all 150 mass sites will shut
The unusually optimistic projections from No10’s experts will pile more pressure on the PM to speed up his lockdown-loosening plan
QUARTER of care home staff have still not accepted a first Covid jab, data shows
Nearly a quarter of staff at older adult care homes in England have not been given a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, new figures show.
The latest data from NHS England, published on Thursday, shows that 76.6 per cent of eligible staff at older adult care homes had been given a first jab by March 21.
It is the fifth consecutive week that the proportion of staff given a first dose has been around 75 per cent, going back to 71.5 per cent by February 21.
This compares to 93.7 per cent of eligible older adult care home residents receiving a first dose of vaccine by March 21.
Residents and staff are classed as eligible for the vaccine if they have not had Covid-19 in the previous 28 days.
The latest figures come just days after the Government confirmed it is considering the possibility of making vaccination a legal requirement for healthcare staff.
The Telegraph reported details of a leaked paper submitted to the ‘Covid O’ sub-committee of Cabinet, which said the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary had agreed to the proposal.
But Matt Hancock has insisted ‘no final decision’ has yet been taken.
Mr Hancock had previously told LBC that ‘many’ care homes had asked for this to happen, adding: ‘There’s a legal change that’s required and, as you can see, I’m open to that, but no final decision has been taken.’
In total, more than 100,000 over-50s in those 16 boroughs alone are still yet to have a jab, with the Government’s May deadline fast approaching.
Meanwhile, the data also showed just 76 per cent of care home workers have taken up the offer of the vaccine. Just 64.5 per cent of carers in London have been jabbed.
Uptake among the group — who work with the most vulnerable people in society — is lowest in Barnet in north London (45 per cent), Barnsley in south Yorkshire (55.8 per cent) and Bath and North East Somerset (57.6 per cent).
A spokesperson for the Adam Smith Institute thinktank said: ‘Every person who misses their jab, or their opportunity for a jab as imports are restricted, represents a possibility for an infection.
‘Every person in the vulnerable groups unvaccinated represents a risk to their life personally and possibly unnecessary risk to the lives of others through uncontrolled transmission.
‘The claim is often made that you need to make many multiples of people vaccinated at the lower age ranges to save the life of one vaccinated in the highest risk group is true in strict probability of risk to life of the individuals involved, we’re now at a point approaching antibody build up in a percentage near herd immunity across the whole population via vaccines and those that sadly caught the virus already.
‘Any and all extra doses in arms now will help to slow and stop the spread of the vaccine and force it into retreat even as we unlock.’
It comes as mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the UK have announced they will close temporarily next month due to looming supply issues.
If the rest of the country follows centres in Devon, Cornwall and Kent’s suit, it could see all 150 mass vaccination sites shut because of shortage in supply.
The focus of the rollout will turn to ensuring there are sufficient vaccine stocks to dish out crucial second doses, with staff at mass hubs around the country expected to be redeployed.
Local vaccination centres have also been told to close unfilled bookings from March 31, with the supply constraint expected to last throughout April. The NHS has called on over-50s to book their first vaccine appointment while they still can before Monday, or risk facing delays.
GPs will continue contacting eligible patients on their lists, but some vaccination sites including Westpoint, near Exeter, have revealed they will shut between April 1 and 11. All of Kent’s five mass vaccination centres, for example, are set to close ‘for a number of weeks’ from next month.
The pause in Britain’s vaccine drive will mean that fewer Britons are vaccinated when No10 starts to reopen the economy on April 12 – but ministers have insisted the timetable will not be affected despite predictions of an ‘exit wave’ of Covid cases as society opens up.
EU’s new jab threat: Desperate Von Der Leyen threatens to block AstraZeneca vaccine exports to UK until firm ‘catches-up’ on deliveries to EU as Macron says he supports blockade – despite rebellion by numerous member states who refused to back outright ban
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen has desperately threatened to block AstraZeneca vaccine exports to Britain until the firm ‘catches-up’ on its deliveries to the Continent.
EU leaders stopped short of voting for an explicit export ban amid bitter squabbling over their dose allocations at a crunch virtual summit hosted by Brussels on Thursday evening.
But despite alarm at the legal implications from countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark, it was clear that the threat of embargoes would not be taken off the table.
Von der Leyen maintained the tough stance, telling a news conference that AstraZeneca ‘has to honour the contract it has with the European member states, before it can engage again in exporting vaccines.’
‘We could have been much faster if all pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts,’ she added. ‘AstraZenaca has committed to a lower number of doses than was contracted.’
It comes despite an apparent effort to ease tensions on Wednesday night when the EU agreed to put out a joint statement with the UK ‘to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens.’
US vaccine-maker Pfizer, which ships jabs from Europe to Britain, echoed Boris Johnson’s sentiments today as it warned the bloc that export controls risked creating a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone.
But Emmanuel Macron, who has admitted that Europe’s vaccine roll-out ‘lacked ambition,’ struck a defiant tone this evening as he called the blockade threat ‘the end of naivety.’
‘I support export control mechanisms put in place by the European Commission. I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don’t respect their commitments with Europeans,’ the French president said after the meeting.
France, along with Germany, has backed tough measures to resolve the crisis which has seen Brussels blame Britain, blockade Australia and beg the United States for doses of the AstraZeneca jab – which earlier this year leaders like Macron claimed was ‘ineffective.’
Macron and Merkel are feeling the heat domestically as they battle soaring infection rates amid a third wave of the virus which has brought yet more scrutiny on their woeful vaccine roll-outs.
Newly-Brexited Britain has managed 46 doses per 100 people in the population, this compares to just 14 doses per 100 in Germany and 13 per 100 in France, which prides itself on its well-endowed public healthcare system.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen maintained the tough stance, telling the news conference that AstraZeneca ‘has to honour the contract it has with the European member states, before it can engage again in exporting vaccines’
Emmanuel Macron speaking after the summit and gesturing to a graph which appears to show the shortfall in doses from AstraZeneca (far right bar on his graph). He struck a defiant tone this evening as he called the blockade threat ‘the end of naivety’
The UK’s vaccine rollout has surged far ahead of the EU’s leaving the bloc under huge pressure to explain why
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a statement after video conference of EU leaders at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany
French President Emmanuel Macron attends an EU summit video conference from the Elysee Palace in Paris
Boris Johnson visits the Monkey Puzzle Nursery in Greenford, in the London borough of Ealing on Thursday
Angela Merkel said after the summit: ‘We are on the one hand inclined to respect global supply chains and want to fight protectionism, but of course we also want to protect our own people because we know this is the way out of the crisis. In relation to Britain, we want a win-win situation, we want to act sensibly politically.’
Europe’s intransigence comes after an extraordinary rebuke from the former Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who called Europe’s vaccine war with Britain ‘stupid.’
Now India bans AstraZeneca exports to keep jabs for their own population in fresh blow to Britain’s supply chain woes after EU threatened an embargo until deliveries are met
India has banned AstraZeneca exports in a fresh blow to Britain’s supply chain woes after the EU last night threatened an embargo until deliveries are met.
A second wave is gripping the country and there is increased demand for the doses made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker.
The SII has been told to stop all exports until India’s needs can be met, sources at the health ministry in Delhi revealed.
But India last night sought to reassure its international customers that they would get their shipments of vaccine, including Britain which has a pending order for 5 million doses.
Another 53,000 cases were recorded on Wednesday, the highest single-day tally for five months.
Fifty-three million Indians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but Prime Minister Narendra Modhi has set a target of 300 million by June in the country of 1.4 billion.
A government source said it had not imposed any ban on vaccine exports ‘unlike many other countries,’ and that it would continue to supply doses in phases.
‘We remain committed to help the world with vaccines, including through the COVAX facility,’ the source told Reuters.
However, a health ministry source told The Times: ‘Other countries will get supplies only if there are vaccines left over after keeping enough for our own population.’
The move will also affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, through which 64 poorer countries are supposed to get doses from the SII, the programme’s procurement and distributing partner UNICEF told Reuters.
Deliveries will be delayed in March and April ‘as the government of India battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections,’ GAVI, an alliance of countries, companies and charities that promote vaccination, said in a statement.
COVAX was in talks with India to ‘ensure some supplies are completed during March and April,’ it said, adding that the SII had supplied 28 million doses to COVAX. An additional 40 million doses had been expected in March and up to 50 million doses in April.
An Indian government source said it may be necessary to adjust supply schedules given India’s vaccination needs.
‘All stakeholders would have to work together to adjust the schedules as required,’ the source said.
India’s foreign ministry and the SII did not reply to requests for comment.
‘Everything else has taken a backseat (to India’s needs), for the time being at least,’ said one of the sources.
‘No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilises. The government won’t take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India.’
India has so far exported more than 60.5 million doses in total, according to the foreign ministry’s website, and many countries are relying on the COVAX programme to immunise their citizens.
The SII has already delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca drug to Brazil, Britain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
British authorities are in touch with Delhi to get its second batch of 5 million doses ordered from SII.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also warned that a failure to resolve grievances between member states over how many doses each would receive risked ‘damage to the EU like we haven’t seen in a long time.’
Von der Leyen referenced the third wave that is gripping much of Europe and which has caused ratcheting tensions between nations over how many vaccine doses they will be allocated.
Merkel, under pressure in Germany after making a U-turn on plans for an extended Easter holiday to stop the spread, defended the EU’s decision to procure vaccines jointly for all member states.
‘Now that we see that even small differences in the distribution of vaccines cause big discussions, I would not like to imagine if some member states had vaccines and others did not,’ she told German lawmakers ahead of the summit. ‘That would shake the internal market to its core.’
Macron said the EU had been late in ramping up vaccine production and inoculations, but was catching up and would become the world’s biggest producer of vaccines this summer.
He added that the EU, unlike other countries, had exported a big part of its production instead of keeping it for itself.
‘Europe is not a selfish continent. Because when I read what the press on the other side of the Channel writes, we’re being accused of being selfish. Wrong! We let our supply chains untouched,’ Macron said.
‘But we saw that the United States tend to protect their own vaccine production … that the United Kingdom did not export many doses. Actually, none. So we put in place an export control mechanism.’
The EU’s executive unveiled plans on Wednesday to tighten oversight of vaccine exports that would allow greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates.
A draft of the summit conclusions seen by Reuters said on vaccines that leaders would stress ‘the importance of … export authorisations’, and reaffirm that vaccine producers must be respect contractual delivery deadlines.
However, diplomats said countries with misgivings about a tougher stand on exports would not put up strong resistance.
‘Their message is … please act very cautiously, in a very balanced way,’ said one EU diplomat. ‘But there is nobody who says don’t do it.’
The two-day summit will conclude on Friday.
It comes after the EU and the UK on Wednesday night issued a joint statement pledging to work together after Boris Johnson warned that businesses could flee the bloc’s borders if it imposed ‘arbitrary’ blockades.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivered another blunt rebuke today, insisting that the UK’s contract with AstraZeneca was fundamentally better than the EU’s.
‘I believe that free trading nations follow the law of contracts,’ he told the FT. ‘They have a ”best efforts” contract and we have an exclusivity deal.’
On a visit to a nursery today, Boris Johnson said he was ‘on the side of openness’ in trade in vaccines.
He said: ‘One thing I am firmly libertarian about is free trade and I don’t want to see blockades of vaccines or of medicines, I don’t think that’s the way forward either for us or for any of our friends.’
Ahead of the talks, Mr Kurz took aim at the EU’s joint procurement system, which is meant to split up supplies based on the size of population.
‘The word solidarity is always being called upon and used so often in the European Union – people are trying to take care of the whole world,’ Mr Kurz said.
‘And when member states have a lot less vaccines available to them than others, then I think this is a big issue for Europe. I would even go so far as to say that I think that when there is no solution, this could cause damage to the European Union like we haven’t seen in a long time.’
Earlier, the French president admitted that the bloc had not gone ‘fast enough or strong enough’ on on vaccines.
But Mr Macron seemingly could not bring himself to acknowledge the UK’s stunning progress, instead heaping praise on the US for ‘shooting for the stars’.
Speaking to the Bundestag this morning, Angela Merkel appeared to accept that the EU’s contracts were not as strong as the UK’s.
‘British production sites are manufacturing for Britain and the United States is not exporting, so we are reliant on what we can make in Europe,’ she said.
Insisting production within the bloc must be ramped up, she added: ‘We have to assume that the virus, with its mutations, may be occupying us for a long time to come so the question goes far beyond this year.’
However, she also tried to defend the EU’s decision to procure vaccines jointly – something that has been blamed for making it less nimble than the UK.
The Europeans are angry that UK-based pharma giant AstraZeneca has failed to meet its vaccine delivery promises to them while ensuring smoother supplies to former member Britain, who ordered their doses months earlier.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz (pictured attending the summit today) accused other member states of taking more than their fair share of jabs, warning that failure to resolve their grievances risked ‘damage to the EU like we haven’t seen in a long time’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the EU’s joint procurement approach today in a speech to the Bundestag
The EU summit today and tomorrow is taking place via video link after the council admitted that the pandemic prevented them meeting in person
On a visit to a nursery in London today, Mr Johnson said he was ‘on the side of openness’ in trade in vaccines
It has emerged that Brussels bureaucrats even ordered a raid on an Italian vaccine factory in a bid to grab British jabs – only to find doses destined for the world’s poorest nations and the people of Europe.
The looming third wave of coronavirus infections and Europe’s struggle to mount a vaccination drive will dominate the video summit, where leaders of the 27 states will also be addressed by US President Joe Biden.
The bloc stepped back from the brink of a vaccine war with Britain last night following a furious backlash by member states.
Merkel ‘is definitely a lame duck’ after lockdown shambles
Angela Merkel is ‘definitively a lame duck’ after she was forced to make a humiliating U-turn by scrapping plans for a strict Easter lockdown, a former German government spokesman has said.
Bela Anda, a press secretary under Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, said Merkel had seen her power ‘eroded’ by the fiasco – with her party’s poll ratings in freefall six months before an election which will determine her successor.
Merkel asked the German public for ‘forgiveness’ at an astonishing press conference on Wednesday where she said the widely-criticised plan for a total shutdown over Easter had been ‘my mistake, and my mistake alone’.
‘The political world in Berlin will draw the conclusion that from today, Angela Merkel is definitively – I’m sorry to say it – a lame duck,’ Anda told Bild last night.
‘It’s certainly clear that a decision which is made and then not implemented means an erosion of power for Merkel from today onwards’.
In an apparent climbdown, the European Commission agreed a joint statement with the UK offering to work to find a ‘win-win’ solution to the row.
The statement came at the end of a day of brinkmanship in which Brussels tabled proposals allowing it to block the export of vaccines to the UK.
Mr Johnson warned that blockading life-saving vaccine supplies would do lasting reputational damage to the EU and deter international firms from wanting to invest there.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt branded the proposed export ban ‘idiotic’ and warned it could wreck the EU’s relations with Britain for years.
‘Step by step the EU is destroying the possibility of a long-term partnership and friendship with its closest neighbour,’ he said.
Other Tory MPs branded the threats ‘mind-blowingly stupid’.
Even senior MEPs warned that the EU had pulled out the ‘shotgun’ but was at risk of ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’.
In an interview with Greek television channel ERT, Mr Macron conceded that the EU had lacked ambition.
‘Everybody, all the experts said: Never in the history of mankind was a vaccine developed in less than a year,’ he said.
‘We didn’t shoot for the stars. That should be a lesson for all of us.
‘We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, I would say, to say: It’s possible, let’s do it.’
However, Mr Macron – who has been one of the most hawkish EU leaders against the UK over Brexit – could not bring himself to make a cross-Channel comparison.
Instead he hailed the American effort to develop vaccines.
‘We didn’t think it would happen that quickly… You can give that to the Americans, as early as the summer of 2020 they said: let’s pull out all the stops and do it,’ he said.
This chart shows how the AstraZeneca supply chain looks across Europe
‘As far as we’re concerned, we didn’t go fast enough, strong enough on this. We thought the vaccines would take time to take off.’
Mrs Merkel told the Bundestag this morning: ‘Despite all the complaints, it was right to rely on the joint procurement and approval of vaccines by the European Union.
‘Now that we see even small differences in the distribution of vaccines cause big discussions, I would not like to imagine if some member states had vaccines and others did not. That would shake the internal market to its core.’
Mr Juncker told the BBC: ‘I’m not a fan of this idea. This could create major reputational damage to the EU, who used to be the world free trade champion.
‘I don’t think this is the right way to do it. We have to pull back from a vaccine war.
‘Nobody understands why we’re witnessing such a stupid vaccine war. This cannot be dealt with in a war atmosphere.
‘We are not in war and we are not enemies, we are allies. We have special relations with Britain, there’s room for dialogue.’
The former commission chief lashed out at the EU for ‘major mistakes’ in being ‘too cautious’ and ‘too budget conscious’ when approving and procuring vaccines.
The UK-EU joint statement last night acknowledged the third wave of cases in Europe made co-operation more important but said no resolution had yet been reached.
‘Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take – in the short, medium and long term – to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens,’ it said. ‘In the end, openness and global co-operation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.’
However, ministers are concerned that the commission powers are still in place, and there is not expected to be any formal decision from EU leaders today.
Mr Johnson has refused categorically to rule out retaliatory action – which could see the UK suspend the export of vaccine ingredients – although he made clear he was not in favour of the move at this stage.
Negotiations are thought to centre on an AstraZeneca plant in the Netherlands.
One Whitehall source said: ‘They have armed themselves with a bazooka and pointed it at us – it is quite incendiary, not to mention morally and legally outrageous.’
France and Germany have backed a hardline stance as they try to deflect attention from their own sluggish vaccination campaigns.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who is fighting to keep her job over the disastrous vaccine rollout, has toughened her stance towards Britain in recent days
A source close to Mr Macron warned that the EU would no longer continue to be ‘the useful idiot’ in allowing jabs to be shipped overseas while the bloc struggles for supplies.
But the prospect of a damaging ban has alarmed a string of other EU countries. Ireland has declared the idea a ‘very retrograde step’, while Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland and Sweden are also said to harbour concerns.
Yesterday began with an extraordinary raid by Italian authorities on an AstraZeneca plant wrongly suspected of preparing to export millions of doses to Britain. In fact, the 29million jabs were destined for other EU countries and parts of the Third World.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen then published ‘temporary’ powers allowing the EU to block the export of jabs to countries such as the UK which have higher vaccination rates.
The plan could threaten millions of doses of the AZ vaccine due to be shipped from the Netherlands. But it could also cut off the UK’s entire supply of the Pfizer jab, which comes from Belgium. Such a move could jeopardise the ability of the NHS to administer second doses of the vaccine.
A further threat to the UK rollout emerged last night as India was reported to have blocked all major exports of the AZ vaccine because infections there are soaring.
Two weeks after five million doses for the UK were stopped, sources said Narendra Modi’s government has now implemented a complete ban on exports by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer.
The move will also affect supplies to the Covax vaccine-sharing facility through which more than 180 poorer countries are expected to get doses, one of the sources said. Covax would also be hit by any EU ban. Its co-chairman Jane Halton said any threats from Brussels to hold vaccine exports hostage would be ‘extremely regrettable’.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides denied the plans amounted to an export ban, adding: ‘We’re dealing with a pandemic and this is not seeking to punish any countries.’
One EU diplomat said Britain had ‘taken a risk’ by leaving itself ‘extremely dependent’ on the EU for second doses of the Pfizer jab.