Boris Johnson announces Covid press conference: What the Prime Minister is expected to say

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead a press conference at Downing Street this afternoon, No 10 has said.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:04 pm

It comes after people in their 40s were told they were likely to have to wait until May to get their Covid-19 vaccine after problems with a shipment of the AstraZeneca jab from India impacted supply.

The head of the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures the vaccine, suggested the country’s government was blocking exports to the UK.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said news of constraints in supply was “disappointing” and “a bit of a setback”, and the focus in April in England will be on giving second doses to people who were vaccinated earlier in the year.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a Covid-19 media briefing (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“The impact of this shortage of supplies will happen on the group that we were hoping to start on in April, which is the people under the age of 50 without any pre-existing conditions, who are now going to have to wait until May,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick also conceded that the rollout of vaccines would be slower than expected because of the shortage, while Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said vaccination of those aged under 50 “may kick off slightly later than we’d optimistically hoped”.

But Northern Ireland suggested it may still be able to start vaccinating people in their 40s from mid-April.

A delay in the delivery of five million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from India is partly to blame for a forthcoming reduction in the UK’s supply.

The delivery had been expected from the SII but has been held up by four weeks.

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

Housing Secretary Mr Jenrick told BBC Breakfast the final goal of vaccinating all adults with one dose by the end of July was still on track.

However, vaccination and rollout figures suggest the NHS had been set to easily beat that target.

Mr Jenrick said: “We are experiencing some supply issues so it does mean the vaccine rollout will be slightly slower than we may have hoped, but not slower than the target we set ourselves.

“We’re going to move forward as quickly as we possibly can but it won’t be as fast as we might have hoped for a few weeks, but then we have every reason to believe that supply will increase in the months of May, June and July.”

He said the Government had learned of coronavirus vaccine supply issues “in the last few days”, and suggested the problem is not due to reductions from a single nation.

“We have learned from some of our manufacturers that there are going to be some supply issues in the last few days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“A number of global manufacturers are experiencing issues.”

Pressed if the issue was vaccine coming from India, he said: “It’s not that there’s any one factory responsible for this or any one country.”