Problems with the coronavirus vaccine rollout to GPs were laid bare as a surgery visited by Matt Hancock to promote the initiative is yet to receive supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca product.
Hancock said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was now being supplied to GP practices across the country as he visited the Bloomsbury Surgery in central London.
But GP Ammara Hughes, a partner at the surgery, told Sky News that its first delivery of AstraZeneca’s vaccine had been pushed back 24 hours to Thursday.
She said: “It’s just more frustrating than a concern because we’ve got the capacity to vaccinate. And if we had a regular supply – we do have the capacity to vaccinate three to four thousand patients a week.”
“We have been running since the middle of December and on our busiest days we can vaccinate 500 people easily.
“If we could get the AstraZeneca, then we could easily vaccinate 500 a day, which would ease the pressure on the health service and we could get more and more people vaccinated quickly and hopefully get out of the pandemic.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Hancock’s visit to the surgery was like something from political comedy The Thick Of It, but added: “Sadly it’s no laughing matter.”
He tweeted: “This should be a clear reminder to ministers to move and heaven to get vaccination widely rolled out ASAP. We’re in a race against time and we need to start with 2 million jabs a week urgently.”
Standing in front of Dr Hughes’s surgery, Hancock said: “It’s great news this morning that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is from right now being rolled out to GP surgeries across the country.
“For the first three days with the Oxford vaccine we did it in hospitals to check that it was working well and it’s working well so now we can make sure that it gets to all those GP surgeries that like this one can do all the vaccinations that are needed.
“The rate-limiting step is the supply of vaccine. We’re working with the companies – both Pfizer and AstraZeneca – to increase the supply.”
Dr Hughes said Hancock was “quite surprised actually to learn that we don’t know when all of our deliveries are coming, they’re very ad hoc”.
The surgery had been administering the Pfizer vaccine since the middle of December and had so far received three deliveries of that jab.
Dr Hughes added: “So we’ve continued to vaccinate with Pfizer in the surgery, and what we’re hoping to do with the AstraZeneca when it arrives is to go out to the most clinically vulnerable and housebound. So that’s what we’ll be doing.
“We won’t start vaccinating within the surgery with our AstraZeneca doses until we’ve finished our Pfizer vaccines.”