Britain will see a “significant reduction” in Covid-19 vaccine supplies from 29 March onwards, according to a letter sent by NHS England to vaccination centres across the country.
The NHS said volumes for first doses will be “significantly constrained”, with disruption set to last for at least four weeks.
Supply shortages will be due to a reduction in vaccines coming into the country, the letter said.
Appointment centres should make sure that no more appointments are uploaded to the national booking system or local booking systems for April, the letter added.
It is understood that people who have already booked their vaccine slots will still be able to proceed with their appointment, the BBC reported.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said at a press conference today that the changes are to ensure that all vulnerable people that have not been vaccinated are reached as a part of the rollout.
“Now we’ve opened up to the 50 and overs, then we’re going to really focus on getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable and because we have a whole load of second vaccines to deliver vaccine supplies are always lumpy,” he said.
“It’s absolutely critical we reach out, loop back and invite yet again all the vulnerable groups that have not yet been vaccinated.
“We regularly set out technical letters to the NHS to explain the ups and downs to the supply over the future weeks.”
The European Commission warned that it will block vaccine exports to the UK and other countries with high vaccination rates if shortages in the bloc’s vaccine supply are not filled.
European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen announced the bloc was facing “the crisis of this century”, as she cautioned that the EU “will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries, depending on their level of openness”.
“We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate,” Von der Leyen added.
However, Hancock said the UK still expected all vaccines scheduled to arrive from the EU to reach British shores as he fired a warning shot at the EU.
“It’s important to set out that the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine was produced from research funded by the UK government, tens of millions of pounds,” he said.
“We’re very happy for others around the world to also manufacture it at cost, but at the same time, as President von der Leyen has said, there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.
“Supply from EU production facilities to the UK is indeed fulfilling contractual responsibilities and we fully expect those contacts to be delivered on.”