Britain says delay in Serum Institute vaccines contributing to supply squeeze

A health worker prepares an injection with a dose of Astra Zeneca coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination centre in Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is facing a squeeze on supply of COVID-19 vaccines next month in part due to a delay in a shipment from India’s Serum Institute that is making AstraZeneca’s shot, health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

British health officials warned on Wednesday that the world’s fastest big economy roll-out of the vaccine would face a significant reduction in supplies from March 29, without initially specifying where the problems were.

“We have a delay in a scheduled arrival from the Serum Institute of India,” Hancock told lawmakers.

Britain is rolling out vaccines made by Pfizer <PFE.N> and AstraZeneca , with 10 million doses of the 100 million ordered from AstraZeneca coming from the Serum Institute.

A spokesman for the Serum Institute said it had delivered 5 million doses to the UK a few weeks ago.

“And we will try to supply more later, based on the current situation and requirement for the Government immunisation programme in India,” he said.

UK flag is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration photo taken March 16, 2021. Picture taken March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc said their delivery schedules had not been impacted.

Hancock added that, separately, a batch of 1.7 million vaccine doses had been delayed as it had to be retested, without specifying the manufacturer.

“Events like this are to be expected in the manual in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity,” Hancock said.

Hancock denied rumours that the delays would see no adults receive a first dose of the vaccine in April, but said it was important to make sure there was enough vaccine to give people a second dose within 12 weeks of their first.

He also said that Britain was on target to offer everyone over 50 a vaccine by mid-April, and a shot to all adults by the end of July.

Earlier, housing minister Robert Jenrick said that supplies would pick up again in May.

Britain is on track to have given a first shot to half of all adults in the next few days, making it one of the fastest countries to roll out a vaccine.

So far 25.27 million people in the United Kingdom have had a vaccine, around 48% of adults.

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