Boris Johnson says there is no change to the next steps of the roadmap out of lockdown, after the NHS warned of a four-week-long “significant reduction” in supply of COVID vaccines.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, the prime minister said: “We will receive slightly fewer vaccines in April than in March but still more than in February.”
He also revealed he would be getting an Oxford-AstraZeneca jab tomorrow.
A need to retest more than one-and-a-half million vaccine doses – as well as delays to doses arriving from India – will lead to a cut in the supply of jabs next month.
More than a dozen EU countries have suspended its use after reports of some people suffering blood clots after being vaccinated.
The World Health Organisation has said that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh any risks, while the European Medicines Agency said on Thursday that the jab was “safe and effective” to use.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it has received five reports of a specific brain blood clot in individuals who have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, although no causal link has been made with the jab.
The five were men aged between 19 and 59 who experienced a clot together with low blood platelet count. One of them has since died.
The MHRA is investigating the reports, but stressed the events were “extremely rare” and they could have been caused by coronavirus itself.
It is not known at this stage whether the individuals had underlying health conditions.
The MHRA said the number of cases translated to a less than one in a million chance of suffering this type of clot among those who have had the jab.
In contrast, the risk of dying from coronavirus aged 40 to 49 was one in 1,000.
Dr Phil Bryan, vaccine safety lead for the MHRA, said the blood clots were “extremely rare” whereas vaccines were “highly effective” in stopping death and hospitalisation from the virus.
The developments come after the NHS warned of a month-long “significant reduction” in the weekly supply of vaccines.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that this was due to a need to retest more than one-and-a-half million vaccine doses and delays to doses arriving from India.
He said the UK was “currently right now in the middle of some bumper weeks of supply”.
It was announced on Wednesday that the UK has now administered more than 25 million first doses.
However, the health secretary admitted that supply in April will be “tighter than this month and we have a huge number of second doses to deliver”.
Around 12 million people will require their second jabs next month.
Mr Hancock is insistent that the reduction in supply will not affect the targets for the UK’s vaccine rollout.
The aim is to offer everyone in the top nine priority groups – all over 50s and everyone with an underlying health condition – by the middle of April.
Meanwhile, the plan is to vaccinate all UK adults by the end of July.