Covid: 5m vaccine doses administered so far - but supply is 'lumpy', Hancock says

Five million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered so far in the UK, Matt Hancock has said, but supply of the jabs is "lumpy".

The health secretary, responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons on Covid-19 vaccine rollout, said five million doses had been administered to 4.6 million people, suggesting at least 400,000 had received a second jab.

Appearing remotely in the Commons, after being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app, Mr Hancock said the UK is "making good progress" toward the target of vaccinating the top four priority groups by February 15

He added the scheme is also "on track" to achieve its goal of inoculating all elderly care home residents by the end of this month with 63% having received vaccination - he said he hopes the aim can be reached even "sooner than that".

The minister told MPs an "ongoing expansion" of the immunisation programme has, as of Thursday morning, seen a cinema in Aylesbury, a mosque in Birmingham and a cricket club in Manchester all be converted into vaccine centres.

Mr Hancock revealed a new vaccine centre had opened in a cinema. Credit: PA

"This first five million doses is only the beginning. We're opening new sites all the time in cathedrals, and food courts, in stadiums and conference centres, GP surgeries and many many more."

He added that 65 pharmacy-led sites across England are joining the vaccination programme this week.

But he admitted there are challenges in the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, of which the UK has approved three; Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna.

"The challenge to supply is, essentially, that we have a lumpy supply," he said.

"The manufacturers are working incredibly hard to deliver the supply as fast as possible...but it is challenging and therefore it isn't possible to give certainty as far out as many GPs and those delivering on the ground would like - because the worst thing would be to give false certainty. "

He said the vaccine "is the way out" of the pandemic "but it doesn’t work immediately", as he urged people to stick to social distancing guidance even if they had received a jab.

Mr Hancock warned people can still get coronavirus for "several weeks" after being vaccinated.

Addressing concerns about new variants of Covid-19, Mr Hancock said early indications are vaccine deals with newer strains in the same way that it does the older variant of the virus.

"Obviously we are vigilant to this and keep this under close review. I'm glad to say that the early indications are that the new variant is dealt with by the vaccine just as much as the old variant, but of course we are vigilant to the new variants that we're seeing overseas."