COVID-19 vaccine deliveries paused in some areas to tackle 'geographical inequality'

Some GP-led vaccination sites will miss out on COVID-19 vaccine deliveries next week as NHS chiefs direct limited supplies to areas with the lowest coverage in priority cohorts, GPonline has learned.

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Pool/Getty Images)

NHS England representatives told GPs at a primary care webinar on 20 January that vaccination sites in areas that had vaccinated a large proportion of their priority cohorts may not receive supplies for the week commencing 25 January, while sites needing to catch up could receive as many as 8,000 doses.

The announcement follows frustration from GPs that limited supplies of jabs are slowing down efforts to vaccinate patients despite having the capacity to go faster.

GPs on the webinar were told the government is receiving between 500,000 to 1.5m doses each of the Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines per week, but 'a highly volatile' delivery schedule was making advance planning difficult.

Regional variation

Official government statistics show a varied rate of vaccine delivery across the country, with London and the East of England falling behind other areas based on data published last week.

Health secretary Matt Hancock recently said that variations in the speed of rollout in different parts of the country were driven by 'all sorts of reasons', explaining that vaccine supplies would be prioritised to parts of the country that needed to complete the over 80s.

He insisted that the government did not want to stop the progress of those areas that had covered this cohort already. But GPonline understands that director of primary care Ed Waller told the webinar that ‘a small number of sites’ would not be getting deliveries at all next week.

He said vaccine deliveries would be based on the number of people sites have left on their highest priority cohorts to reduce geographical inequalities in uptake. He encouraged GPs to use supplies quickly so health bosses could match supplies to people who needed the vaccine.

Vaccination deliveries

GPs running vaccination sites were also told that NHS England could not provide updates about deliveries over two weeks in advance because of a ‘highly volatile’ delivery schedule, but that this could change in the future if supplies become more stable.

GPonline revealed this week that local vaccination centres had been left frustrated by a lack of vaccine supply thwarting efforts to maximise vaccine delivery. GPs said reported that capacity created by teams to jab thousands of patients a day was not being used.

Numbers of COVID-19 vaccinations administered per day this week dipped below the number needed for the government to hit its target of administering a first dose to 15m people UK-wide by 15 February -but rose to a record number of doses UK-wide on Tuesday.

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