Government insists vulnerable will be vaccinated on time despite Pfizer delays

The government has said it still plans to vaccinate the top four priority groups by mid-February despite shipment delays at Pfizer.

Deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab to Europe will be lowered for the next three to four weeks while the pharma giant upscales production at a factory in Belgium to allow it to produce more doses than originally planned in 2021.

Pfizer has insisted it will still deliver the same overall number of doses between January and March.

A spokesperson for the government said it is still working to its timetable of vaccinating all four priority groups by February 15 despite still being ‘in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement’.

Six other European countries blasted the ‘unacceptable’ situation in a letter to the European Commission, saying it ‘decreases the credibility of the vaccination process’.

The German government accused Pfizer of notifying the EU at ‘short notice’ after it initially said the plant improvements would not impact delivery schedules.

Meanwhile Canadian officials have announced their country will be affected despite claims from Pfizer and BioNTech that the US market would not be impacted.

The UK has currently secured 40 million doses of the jab, which is more than enough to cover the four priority groups.

The four priority groups include everyone aged 70 or over as well as extremely vulnerable people, frontline health and social care workers and care home carers.

It remains unclear whether the reduced deliveries will be enough to meet the timetable’s requirements, although the shortfall may be met by another vaccine candidate.

The Oxford and AstraZeneca jab is also currently being rolled out across the UK.

A Pfizer spokesperson said: ‘We understand a change to deliveries has the potential to create uncertainty.

‘However, we can confirm the overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one [January to March].

‘We continue to liaise with the UK Government and the Vaccines Taskforce to work through short-term impact of these changes to our January deliveries and support the goals of the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme.’

The government’s spokesperson said: ‘We are in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement today to our plans.

‘However we continue to plan to hit our target of vaccinating all four priority groups by February 15.’

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