A major shortage of covid vaccines is expected before the end of the month, according to NHS England.
A letter from NHS England warned local vaccine centers of a “significant reduction” in vaccine supplies from March 29th.
The letter states that the quantities for the first few doses will be “severely restricted” and that the disruption could last four weeks.
The reduction in vaccine supply is linked to a “reduction in national vaccine supply”, according to NHS England, but does not provide further details.
This happened after Foreign Minister Dominic Raab accused the EU of “brinkmanship” and warned them not to block the export of coronavirus vaccines after a threat from EU leader Ursula von der Leyen.
He warned “World Watch” when he suggested that the bloc behaved like a “less democratic” regime and that its threat would violate the direct assurances it had given Britain.
The European Commission President issued the threat on Wednesday as she remains entangled in a series over the delivery of the Oxford / AstraZeneca stitch and is under pressure due to delays in its rollout.
Criticizing the Anglo-Swedish company for its “underproduction and underdelivery”, she said the EU would consider stopping vaccine exports to countries with coverage rates higher than its own as it struggled to match the pace of rollout administered in the UK.
Given that European nations are at the “height of a third wave” of infections, Ms. von der Leyen warned that she is “ready to use any tool we need” to ensure the reliable delivery of vaccines .
With the Pfizer bumper being manufactured in Germany and Belgium and Moderna being completed in Spain, Downing Street urged the EU to “hold on to its commitment” not to restrict exports.
Mr. Raab warned that it was “wrong to restrict or interfere with the lawful contracted delivery,” and told reporters, “I think some explanation is needed because the world is watching.”
He said the threat “overlaps the direct commitments made by the Commission and EU officials over the past few days”.
“We were reliably informed that they were not aware of any plans to restrict legally contracted delivery to the UK,” said Raab.
“Like our European friends, we keep the supply chains open. Maintaining the trade and vital supplies of medical equipment and vaccines is vital. We have all spoken out in favor and expect that these assurances and legally contractually agreed deliveries will be kept.
“To be honest, I’m surprised we’re having this conversation. It’s usually what the UK and EU join forces with to reject when other countries with less democratic regimes than us engage in this kind of brinkmanship.”
Ms. von der Leyen had told reporters in Brussels that “we will think about whether exports to countries with higher vaccination rates than we are still proportionate”.
“We want reliable deliveries of vaccines, we want an increase in contracts, we want reciprocity and proportionality in exports and we are ready to use every instrument we need to achieve this,” said Ms. von der Leyen.
“This is about making sure Europe gets its fair share.”
She defended the EU on charges of “vaccine nationalism”, arguing that the bloc had approved 314 applications for vaccine exports and rejected only one since the export license was introduced on February 1.
Ms. von der Leyen added that “41 million cans have been exported to 33 countries” when she warned “open roads in both directions”.
The EU rate of vaccine doses administered per 100 people is 11.81, according to a tracker on the Our World In Data website. This is comparable to the UK rate of 39.04 and the US rate of 33.11.
Ms von der Leyen made it clear that the UK is not a nation that she believes has “reciprocity” in terms of vaccine supply and described it as “number one country” in terms of exports from the EU.
She said 10 million doses have been exported to the UK in the past six weeks, pointing out that AstraZeneca makes its vaccine in the UK.
“We are still waiting for cans to come from the UK. This is an invitation to show us that cans from the UK are also coming to the European Union so that we can have reciprocity,” she added.
Downing Street pointed to an apparent commitment from Ms. von der Leyen in January when the EU backtracked on its widely condemned move to impose vaccine controls by overriding part of the Brexit deal in Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said: “She confirmed at the time that the focus of her mechanism was on transparency and not aimed at restricting exports by companies where they are fulfilling their contractual responsibilities.
“The case remains that we would expect the EU to stick to its commitment.”
Amid the ongoing dispute, several EU countries including France, Italy and Germany have suspended the introduction of the AstraZeneca sting due to a low number of reports of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet counts.
The EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is conducting an extensive scientific review but has said it “remains convinced” that the “benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks”.
The message was confirmed by the World Health Organization when UK leaders tried to reassure the public that the shock was safe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would receive the AstraZeneca push “very soon” to address concerns.