HSJ’s daily update of what our sources are telling us about the progress of the pandemic

Many within and out of the NHS have been a little wrongfooted by the surprise discovery that a national covid programme, namely the vaccination rollout, is actually going quite well.

It is not quite flying as some would have hoped back last autumn – when there were expectations of earlier approvals and a smoother manufacturer/supply line – but it is certainly going better than many of our international peers’ equivalents.

This is noted in the latest Cowper’s Cut, from Andy Cowper, and in Lawrence Dunhill’s North by North West.

The main frustrations at the front line have been about policy shifts like the back and forth on staff priority and the overnight delay to second doses; and about how supplies are dished out regionally and locally.

Matt Hancock, at Monday’s Downing Street press conference, said that while all regions would get their “fair share”, supplies nationally would still be “bumpy”, and he indicated there was a need for some areas to be allowed to catch up in order to meet the 15 February target for the top four priority groups to all be offered a slot for a first jab.

The next couple of weeks, heading up to the deadline, are therefore likely to see supplies diverted away from the North of England – at least, unless there is enough at national level to allow the North to vaccinate outside those groups. London in particular has some ground to make up (though its population is younger).

With many more mass centres and pharmacies having come on stream in recent weeks, supply is also being more stretched at regional/local level between the different delivery routes – to the frustration of some GPs who, earlier in the programme, played an (even) bigger part, and in some cases now see their stock disappear.

As Lawrence writes, the real challenge of the next two weeks will be reaching those in the top four priority groups who have not so far been jabbed – the air is likely to get thinner the closer a patch gets towards 100 per cent penetration.

This includes working to try to ensure equitable uptake among some ethnic groups, and poorer communities, which is an increasing concern, with signs of difficulties not abating.