The Government has so far resisted releasing the official data on how many doses of the vaccine are currently available and the rate at which production can be stepped up, but is facing growing calls to publish it to boost transparency and public confidence about supplies.
Professor Martin Marshall, the head of the Royal College of GPs, said he supported the decision to pause the rollout in some areas but warned that the lack of information was causing “confusion” for family doctors.
“Some GPs have really got their systems very slick and are vaccinating at a very fast pace,” he told The Telegraph. “But I think it would be a problem if you have a 90-year-old in Cornwall who hasn’t got a vaccine, while 70-year-olds in Gloucester are getting a vaccine.
“However frustrating it is for practices, I support the NHS’s desire to make sure supplies are in the right place, according to the JCVI [joint committee on vaccination and immunisation] priority list.”
On Tuesday, Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, urged ministers to “set out what the pipeline looks like” to reassure Britons that the rollout of the vaccines will hit the targets.
He accepted ministers’ arguments that releasing data about the exact number of doses going to each location could prove a security risk, saying: “I get that, but I don’t understand why there’s a problem with saying that we’ve got an agreement with AstraZeneca to supply us with this many doses over this period.
“If they’re confident they can do 15 million doses by February 15 and they have the doses to do that, presuming they’re not lying, then that must mean they’ve got the supplies.”
Mr Harper said that, once supply is scaled up, the Government should look to have vaccine centres operating 24 hours a day, adding: “At the moment, the limiting factor is the supply of the vaccine. Opening 24/7 isn’t going to help you get the people vaccinated. But at some point you’re going to get to a point where actually operating 24/7 is going to be helpful in getting the vaccine rolled out more quickly.”
Whitehall sources confirmed on Tuesday night that ministers want to pilot a 24-hour vaccine centre to test demand. A senior Government source said: “As well as more daytime appointments, we are considering a pilot where vaccinations are offered for longer hours.”
There have also been calls for the police to be prioritised amid concerns over a high rate of absence due to sickness in some forces.