Ministers say dark forces threaten our vaccine supply – but a summer of bragging might be more likely

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Do you brag about the vaccine supply? Who could have done that? And would such bragging have already had a negative impact on Britain’s vaccination campaign?

The only people who have bragged about the vaccine supply are the ministers themselves. Come back to last summer and you could be forgiven for thinking we were going to drown in things soon.

On August 14, Business Secretary Alok Sharma made the third in a series of world-renowned vaccine supply announcements with news of “90 million” more doses.

“This means that the UK has placed orders for six experimental vaccines, bringing its potential stockpile to 340 million doses,” the TBEN’s Fergus Walsh explained. “In theory, there should be enough of it for everyone in the UK to get five doses.”

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Back then, ministers weren’t just saving Britain, they were saving the world. “Today’s agreements will not only benefit people in the UK, but will ensure fair and equitable access to a vaccine around the world, potentially protecting hundreds of millions of lives,” Sharma said.

Speaking to LBC Radio on September 7, Health Secretary Matt Hancock added that Britain’s deal with Oxford AstraZeneca for no less than “100 million doses” was already bearing fruit.

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“We have already contracted 30 million doses with AstraZeneca. In fact, they’re already starting to manufacture these doses, before the approval, so if the approval goes through … then we’re ready to roll out.

So what happened? Why are GPs across the country clamoring for more vaccines and why are the Chief Medical Officer and Health Secretary saying vaccine supply is the ‘rate limiting’ factor in the UK rollout?

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The truth is that the production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – the only licensed vaccine we have ordered in very large quantities – has encountered difficulties.

Manufacturing the vaccine in bulk is a delicate process that takes seven to eight weeks. If something is wrong, you have to start over – and it has gone wrong many times. “We were trying to fly the plane and build it at the same time,” said Sir Mene Pangalos of AstraZeneca, a company new to large-scale vaccine production.

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