Commenting on reports of a slowing down in the COVID-19 UK vaccination rate, Professor Richard Wilding OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield School of Management, said: “This looks like a housekeeping exercise designed to make sure that the supply reaches the original priority list set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. What we have seen is some areas of the country racing ahead, finishing the first nine priority groups and moving on to the under 50s. At the same time, we have other areas of the country still working through higher priority groups. A key focus is minimising wastage and ensuring all stocks are used within the 'use by date'.

“I think what we are seeing is some slowing down because of excellence in the vaccine rollout in the UK. In terms of supply, the procurement has been extremely effective and what we appear to have seen is the UK taking advantage of any excess stock that drug manufacturers have been able to supply. By using low wastage syringes, we are also able to get additional doses out of the vials above the manufacturers’ stated doses. This means that effectively we are increasing the amount of vaccine available by 10% above the purchased doses so some vials provide bonus doses, which is great news.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks and months is the UK taking advantage of over-supply and that is why we have been able to get so many jabs in arms so quickly. Effectively what we are seeing now is a normalisation of the supply but we are still on target.

“It is now 100 days since the first vaccination and what we are also seeing is a huge demand emerging for people to have their second vaccination, so there is almost an inevitable slowing down in 1st vaccinations as supplies will be needed to be prioritised for the 2nd dose.

“The vaccination rollout programme is still on track and looks likely to easily reach the original target of vaccinating the priority groups by mid-April.”