The daily rate of Covid-19 vaccination needs to be doubled to allow the UK to lift lockdown restrictions by May, new data has shown.
At the rate of the current rollout, it is expected that measures could still be in place by mid-September.
600,000 jabs per day
A report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has found that increasing the vaccine rollout to 600,000 jabs per day could allow almost all restrictions to be lifted in the next four months.
The latest modelling indicates that the majority of the country could be moved back into Tier 1 restrictions by the start of April, with a return to normality by mid-May.
The achievement would be four months earlier than the UK government’s current target of offering every adult in the country their first vaccine dose by September.
However, NHS England data shows that there were around 300,000 people given inoculations on Tuesday (19 January), with 2,989 of these being second doses.
As such, it means the current rate would need to double in speed to meet the TBI’s recommendation.
Is doubling the rate feasible?
The TBI said its discussions with vaccine manufacturers suggested that production was possible at a rate that could support issuing 600,000 jabs every 24 hours.
However, ministers have recently stressed that as vaccination rates fell, supply was the problem, rather than distribution.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Wednesday (20 January) that the UK would see “inconsistencies” in vaccine supply due to changes being made at supply plants.
Ms Patel added that the issues with supply did not mean the target of vaccinating those in the top four priority groups by mid-February would be missed, while the Prime Minister's official spokesman said that more jabs could be delivered by the NHS if supply improves.
He said : "Supply is the limiting factor, as the vaccines minister (Nadhim Zahawi) made clear earlier this week, which is why we continue to work closely with the companies.
"You've had representatives from the NHS say they are ready and can deliver more vaccines if we are able to increase the supply.
"That is exactly what we are doing over the course of this month and into next month."
More than four million people have received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine so far in the UK, with care home residents and staff, people aged 80 and over, and frontline healthcare workers being the top priority.
Letters have now been sent out to people aged 70 and over, and the clinically extremely vulnerable, in England, inviting them to get their jab as the NHS begins the rollout to the next two priority groups.