Matt Hancock dismisses North West vaccine cuts reports - despite NHS confirmation

Health secretary Matt Hancock said media reports about North West Covid vaccine cuts were "not credible" in Parliament yesterday - despite the NHS and some Lancashire MPs confirming the plans.

When asked about plans to cut the North West's supply of Covid vaccines by a third in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hancock dismissed media reports as "not credible" and denied there would be a reduction in supplies.

Morecambe MP David Morris asked Mr Hancock about "scare stories in Lancashire," referencing media reports of North West vaccine cuts which were confirmed by the NHS last week.

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Mr Morris said: "There have been scare stories in Lancashire about vaccines being diverted to elsewhere in the country, causing a shortage and perpetuating further urban myths.

Health secretary Matt Hancock denied there would be a reduction in Covid vaccines in the North West in the House of Commons yesterday - despite NHS confirmation of the plans. photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/PA Media

"Will the Secretary of State assure me and the House that my constituents will be covered, that vaccines are not being redirected to other regions of the UK, and that Lancashire will continue to receive the required proportions in the future, safeguarding my constituents?"

Mr Hancock then denied there were plans to cut vaccines from the North West, despite health bosses having already confirmed the plans.

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"Yes, I can give my honourable friend that assurance. Of course, the supply of vaccines is the rate-limiting step," he said.

However, Mr Hancock added that there had already been supply issues of the vaccines at times during the roll-out for priority cohorts: "We have seen the strain on vaccine supply from some of the things that have happened over the past week, and some weeks the supply is greater than others."

He also said Lancashire would get its "fair share" of Covid jabs, with enough to be able to vaccinate everyone in the top four priority groups before February 15.

Mr Hancock then dismissed widespread media reports of the North West vaccine cuts, saying: "The reports circulating on the internet are not from credible sources."

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The Gazette reported last week that the North West is set to lose a third of its vaccine supply in February, after receiving confirmation from NHS health bosses.

Jane Scattergood, Covid-19 vaccination director for NHS Lancashire, confirmed the plans and said on the radio: "We will complete the top four JCVI priorities by mid-February, even on the reduced vaccine supply.

"We're looking to national NHS leaders and central Government to continue to work hard to increase the supply."

Lancashire MPs have also criticised the plans, supporting Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF) with their plea to keep the vaccines set for diversion in the region.

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Angie Ridgwell, chairman of LRF and chief executive of Lancashire County Council, urged MPs to support their aim of preventing Lancashire from losing any of its vaccine supply.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: "Now [was] not the time to slow down" on Lancashire's vaccine roll-out.

Chorley MP and Speaker for the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle also voiced his support for keeping vaccines in Lancashire, adding that he had contacted vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and health secretary Matt Hancock to express his concerns.