Britain could have enough coronavirus vaccines to give jabs to more than 500,000 people each day next week, under plans to dramatically accelerate the UK programme that were revealed in a Scottish government document.
The document suggests that Britain should have secured enough Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate most of the 15m most-vulnerable people that the government is aiming to offer the jab to by mid-February — if the NHS programme works effectively.
A total of 2.6m people in the UK have been given their first dose of the vaccine, according to government data. The most recent daily vaccination figure was 207,661.
Matt Hancock, health secretary, was furious at the release of the document by the Scottish government about its vaccine deployment plan, since UK ministers have tried to keep secret the amount of jabs being supplied by pharmaceutical companies.
“It’s partly a matter of security, but it’s also to protect manufacturers from pressure from other countries to deliver more to them, once they know how much we are getting,” said one UK government official.
The document, published online by the Scottish government on Wednesday, was later withdrawn, but it showed that vaccines supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna are scheduled to arrive in significant quantities until the early summer.
The disclosure will put pressure on UK ministers to make sure the vaccines that are delivered are actually injected into people’s arms.
Until now, ministers have repeatedly insisted that “supply” has been the only limiting factor in the vaccine programme.
Boris Johnson was frustrated this month at the bureaucracy and lack of data around the NHS’s efforts to roll out the vaccine, although Downing Street has insisted that the prime minister is now satisfied with the plan.
The Scottish government document sets out the expected supply of vaccine from the three companies — Pfizer and AstraZeneca have already started providing jabs, with Moderna doses due to come on stream in the spring — for the country’s population of about 5.5m people.
Scotland is being given vaccines on a pro-rata basis as one of the UK’s constituent nations.
Because Scotland represents about 8 per cent of the UK population, the document about its vaccine deployment plan gives an insight into expected delivery of doses across all constituent nations.
In the week starting January 18, the Scottish government expects to receive 309,000 doses, which equates to almost 3.8m across the UK. In the week starting January 25, the figure is due to rise to 4.5m for the whole of the UK, before falling to 2.1m, 2.8m and 963,000 in the following weeks.
The Scottish government anticipates having administered the first dose of the vaccine to 1m Scots by the middle of February, which would suggest 12.5m across the UK.
That would fall short of Mr Hancock’s pledge to offer to vaccinate 15m of the most-vulnerable people in the UK by February 15. These include those aged over 70, and the clinically vulnerable, as well as health and social care workers.
Downing Street warned that there was “a high degree of uncertainty” around vaccine deliveries.
It added: “It is obviously the case that vaccines are in high demand and we have never commented on the supply that we have and . . . we are not getting into any transport or logistics.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, who had been under pressure from opposition parties to give more detail about its vaccination plan, said she believed it was important to be transparent.
She added that she was “not convinced” about concerns that the release of the numbers of planned vaccinations could put suppliers under pressure.
Meanwhile, former Tory Brexit minister Steve Baker has told fellow members of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs that Mr Johnson’s future as prime minister would be in doubt if he cannot map a clear route out of the current coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Baker’s note to colleagues was described by one Tory MP as “out of touch with the mood of the parliamentary party and the country”.
Mr Baker declined to comment on the leaked note, but later struck a more conciliatory note on Twitter. “I am clear Boris is the only person to lead us out of these difficulties and I support him in that endeavour,” he said.