Britain’s vaccine programme just hit a wall, and if you’re under 50 years old then your vaccine got shifted back by at least a month in the process.

Britain has led the world in vaccine roll-out, this week passing 25 million first jabs and with almost two million oldies and medics fully vaccinated, a number that’s climbing fast. However last night the NHS sent a worrying letter to vaccine centres and hospitals telling them to stop taking bookings for next month amid an unexpected but “significant” shortage of vaccines.

Here are all your questions answered:

Okay, I’m 25 and I’m in a hurry. Which arm do you want?

Hold it, healthy lady with no preexisting conditions, you are riiiiiiiight at the back of the queue. See you in June.

I thought that things were going great guns? (Geddit?)

I don’t get it…

Guns. As in arms. Tough crowd…

They were until about 4pm yesterday when a letter from NHS England leaked just in time to throw Matt Hancock’s hoped-for 5pm briefing headlines entirely off course.

The hapless Secretary of State was hoping to bask in this morning’s front pages, raving about his department’s success (Dominic Cummings disagrees it was him at all) with 25 million vaccines doled out. But that wasn’t to be…

Stop teasing and just tell me what the letter says…

From March 29th volumes of first vaccine doses are going to be “significantly constrained”.

Vaccine centres have now been told that anyone under the age of 50 should only be offered the jab in “exceptional circumstances”, like being a frontline care worker or clinically vulnerable.

Meanwhile doctors and vaccine centre staff will concentrate on the first nine groups, basically everyone over 50.

Hmm. That kind of counts me out then?

Junior Marketing Manager? *Scans list* yeah, you’re not down as priority…

So what’s behind the delay?

It’s a bit of a perfect storm. Our delayed second dose approach just really kicked in. Because we’re delaying second doses of the vaccines for between two and three months it’s only now that we’re having to match our mega first dose numbers from January with mega second doses now.

Oh, so that’s it?

No. Because we knew this shortfall was heading our way we niftily ordered some extra on top from AstraZeneca in India (why don’t the EU just do that? Maybe they do)

Except apparently that order has somehow turned up only half full…

Like substituted items on Ocado?

Er, I guess. Except presumably they didn’t stuff half the plane full of an inexplicable number of packets of Cheesy Doritos.

Anything else?

Yep. On top of all that there’s production problems at the British AstraZeneca plants, which reportedly haven’t yet hit the company’s two million doses a month target, promised by mid February.

Well at least all that nonsense with the EU’s cleared up!

Ah, about that. Remember Groundhog Day?

Yeah, I lived it for the last year…

EU President Ursula Von Der Leyen has started up the exact same threats and cajoling she tried to devastating self humiliation the other month to get Britain to give up some of our vaccines to plug the EU’s gaps.

The EU’s a rule-following global advocate for free trade, and it’s fiercly anti vaccine nationalism. No way they’d block vaccine exports…

They just banned exports to Australia…

Oh. Right.

Remainer mind blown, right? The EU are threatening to block Britain’s deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine from Belgium if we don’t give them some of our AstraZeneca vaccine.

They are also suffering from downturns in production of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines, so the pressure’s on.

This is the same AstraZeneca vaccine half of Europe just spuriously banned?

I know, it’s beyond parody. Right now they’ve not ‘gone nuclear’ and banned Pfizer lorryloads of jabs enroute to the UK, and it would cause a huge stink if they do, but we’ll cover it if and when. Let’s stay on track…

Fine. So when was I meant to get my vaccine?

It was expected that the vaccination efforts would ramp up to around five million doses a week, meaning that from mid-April we’d see people in their forties innoculated and, swiftly followed by anyone in their thirties and twenties. There was even talk of having everyone done by May.

This puts a real spanner in the works of this accelerated schedule. It looks like it’ll be May before they start injecting people in their 40s.

And now where’s it at?

The government is confident it will hit its original target to first-dose the whole adult population (who wants it) by the end of July. Which means that if you’re in the 18-29 bracket, the least priority group in the whole country, you’re right at the back of the queue.

What does this mean for my holiday?

Really? That’s the first place your mind went?

Bite me

It could be a real issue. In more optimistic times (yesterday) we wrote an article listing all the destinations you can travel to when you’ve gotten your vaccine and while some will be totally hunky with just your negative test result (hello Greece) others are going to be a lot more restrictive and demand full vaccination.

If you’re vaccinated in July then you’re unlikely to be fully vaccinated until around October time. Which means no vaccine passport for you this summer.

Okay, farewell Ayia Napa. Can we end on any positive news?

Yes! Aside from the fact that we’ve now prevented 90% of deaths and seriously reduced the virus in circulation, there’s good news for future production.

For a start, AstraZeneva have promised the government that they’ll increase supply again in May, June and July (if you’re willing to take their word for it). On top of that Pfizer are due to up supply in May, and don’t forget that our Moderna vaccines will start kicking in around then too. 

So the future’s hardly bleak.

Unless you’re the government. They were hoping that an accelerated vaccine programme in April would deliver them bumper results at May’s local elections. Which may not happen now…


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