Delay in SII AstraZeneca Shipment Expected to Hit UK Vaccine Drive

The other reason for vaccine supply being hit in April is that a batch of 1.7 million doses needs to be retested.

Published
COVID-19
3 min read
The United Kingdom’s vaccination drive is expected to be hit in April in part due to delays in supply of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by Serum Institute of India.
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The United Kingdom’s vaccination drive is expected to be hit in April in part due to delays in supply of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by Serum Institute of India (SII), which was expected to deliver five million more doses of the shot, reports BBC.

Britain’s vaccination drive has been using the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs, and 10 million doses of the 100 million ordered from AstraZeneca were to be fulfilled by SII.

According to the BBC, the shipment is delayed by four weeks, hampering the UK’s widespread vaccine roll-out as it battles spiking COVID-19 cases.

The other reason for the vaccine supply being hit in April is that a batch of 1.7 million doses needs to be retested, reported Reuters.

How Will the UK be Affected?

"It is true that in the short term we're receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for a week ago," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters. However, he added that despite the lesser amount of vaccines available, they would be able to hit the pre-decided targets.

The Telegraph reported that according to a leaked letter from NHS chief commercial officer Emily Lawson, vaccination centres have been asked not to book any new appointments from 29 March to 30 April.

“There will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers happening 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,” the letter stated, adding that only the most vulnerable should be vaccinated in this interim.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that despite the supply crunch, the country was on target to give everyone over 50 a first dose by mid-April, and vaccinate all adults by the end of July.

In a statement on Thursday in the House of Commons, Hancock said that the “process of manufacturing vaccines is complicated and subject to unpredictability” as he explained the reasons behind the crunch.

What Did SII Say?

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told the newspaper that the batch of five million further doses will only be delivered once New Delhi permitted it.

“It is solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with SII. It is to do with the Indian government allowing more doses to the UK,” Poonawalla told The Telegraph.

Poonawalla had earlier said in an interview with Bloomberg that SII was among those manufacturers who had been unable to meet deadlines, since the Indian government had changed its mind about consuming a lot more doses of Covishield.

“We’ve had to dedicate a lot of our capacity which was not originally planned for India. Now it’s going to the Indian citizens. We’re trying to balance it out as much as possible but again, for the first few months, we are being directed to prioritise supply to India and certain other countries that have a high disease burden,” Poonawalla said.

In the interview, speaking about the COVAX initiative, the SII CEO also mentioned vaccine nationalism as one of the hurdles in the paths of vaccine manufacturers.

A spokesperson for the Serum Institute told the BBC: "Five million doses had been delivered a few weeks ago to the UK and we will try to supply more later, based on the current situation and the requirement for the government immunisation programme in India."

According to Reuters, asked if the Indian government had stopped exports of vaccine to Britain, Johnson said: "No, no, there is a delay as there often is, caused for various technical reasons, but we hope to continue to work very closely with the Serum Institute, and indeed with partners around the world including on the European continent."

(With inputs from BBC, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Telegraph.)

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