By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) – The UK said Wednesday it was confident manufacturers are delivering COVID-19 vaccines in time to continue one of the fastest rollouts in the world despite a slowdown this week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accelerated the introduction of vaccines in the UK to give all adults a first dose by the end of July. However, Monday saw the lowest number of first doses since the daily numbers were first reported.
“We have real confidence in our supplies and our visibility of supplies,” Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi told lawmakers, saying the government had spoken to manufacturers almost every day.
“We are very confident that we can achieve these goals as we have sufficient visibility of our deliveries.”
Johnson has outlined a plan to facilitate England lockdown, assuming a successful vaccine rollout.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said this week would be quieter for vaccinations due to unequal supply schedules, but he expected supplies to increase over the next month.
U.K. launches footage developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca, although Johnson has said he is concerned about the possibility of coronavirus variants destroying the vaccine.
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) have said that both vaccines will again provide some protection for all current variants, and AstraZeneca hopes that the next generation of vaccines will be ready this year if needed.
“We need to be prepared when an autumn vaccination campaign is required and when it is required with a new version of the vaccine,” Oxford vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert told lawmakers.
“Anything can happen, viruses can mutate indefinitely, but right now I think the signs are good that we can’t suddenly escape the vaccine with a virus that can circulate very well.”
The UK has the fifth highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world at over 120,000 and has reported more than 4 million cases. Almost 18 million people received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, around a third of the adult population.