• Supply of covid vaccines to North West region to be cut by around a third in February
  • Due to national supply limitations, as well as region having made good progress in vaccinating priority groups

The supply of covid vaccine to the North West region is set to be cut by around a third in February, seemingly due to national shortages and the need for other regions to catch up with vaccinating their priority groups.

According to statistics published by NHS England, around 310,000 jabs were administered in the North West in the week to 24 January.

The number of available doses this week is broadly similar, but is due to reduce in the first week of February, and fall further to around 200,000 in the second week, well-placed NHS sources told HSJ. The numbers for the following weeks are unclear. The region covers Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside, and Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Last week, HSJ revealed the North East and Yorkshire would see its supply to primary care vaccination centres halved this week compared to last. Leaders in the area were told this was mainly due to it being further ahead in vaccinating its priority cohorts; as well as having to split it with a growing number of “mass” centres and pharmacies offering vaccination; and limits on supply nationally.

In mid-January, government sources were quoted in the media suggesting the national supply could reach 2.8 million per week by the start of February, which would equate to an average of around 400,000 per region.

But there have since been multiple suggestions supply from the manufacturers Pfizer and Astrazeneca has been significantly constrained. The health secretary has said supply into the country is “tight” and will be “lumpy”.

A senior source with knowledge of the vaccination programme, who asked not to be identified, said: “It means that having stepped up a lot of services, you’re then only using half that capability. I don’t think anyone’s complaining, but it’s going to be [a] significant step back just as capability has been ramped up.”

The Department of Health and Social Care told HSJ targeted deliveries were being made to areas with more people left to vaccinate in the priority cohorts, proportionate to their at-risk population.

A spokesman added: “We are in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers and remain on track to offer first vaccinations to the top four priority groups by mid-February.

“As we’ve said, supply is the limiting factor and as the public would expect we’re prioritising those most at risk from this disease across the country. Our approach so far has ensured we’ve vaccinated more people than any country in Europe.”

Lancashire and South Cumbria has performed particularly well in vaccinating its over 80s population, according to analysis by HSJ. However, breakdowns of progress in the other priority groups have not been made available by the NHS.

As of 24 January, the North West had vaccinated around 12 per cent of its total population — the second highest proportion, behind the South West. The volumes of vaccine being delivered to other regions in February is unclear.

NHS England’s North West directorate said in a statement: “The North West is being fully supplied with all the vaccinations needed to offer vaccination to everyone across the region aged 70 and above, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and health and social care staff.”