Text of Times article by Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor:
Ministers are preparing to more than double the vaccination rate to half a million a day next week under plans to dramatically ramp up delivery.
Confidential government figures which were published by the Scottish government suggest that the government is preparing to vaccinate as many as 3.8 million people next week.
It would eclipse the 2.6 million people who have received the vaccine over the past five weeks amid reports that Boris Johnson was frustrated by the slow pace of the rollout. The most recent daily vaccination figure was 207,661.
The figures suggest that the government is on target to deliver on its pledge of vaccinating 15 million of those who are most at risk by February 15. It means that all of the at risk groups could be vaccinated by mid-March.
There was fury in government yesterday after Scotland published figures showing the number of vaccines that will be deployed on a weekly basis.
The government has repeatedly refused to publish the figures amid concerns that other nations will “gazump” the UK and put pressure on vaccine manufacturers if they know how much is being deployed.
“It’s insane,” a government source said. “The figures were given to the Scottish government in strictest confidence. It could undermine the entire programme.”
The figures, which have since been deleted, suggest that Scotland is due to receive 309,382 doses next week, equating to 3.8 million for the whole of the UK. By the end of next month, production will have ramped up even further with Scotland receiving 443,531 doses a week, suggesting 5.4 million will be delivered to the UK.
A government source described the figures set out in the Scotland document as a “reasonable best case scenario”.
“These figures suggest that we are easily going to meet our target, but there isn’t a lot of headroom there,” the source said. “It’s a competitive market and things can go wrong in the production process.”
The figures suggest there are two weeks when there is no Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that is available, which a source said was due to supply issues.
AstraZeneca told MPs that it expects to be able to deliver two million doses a week to the UK by mid-February, which it described as a “conservative” estimate.
However government sources said that AstraZeneca had previously suggested that it could hit this target by mid to late January.
Mr Johnson told the Commons liaison committee yesterday: “This government has secured a bigger supply of vaccines . . . than virtually any other country in the world. So we have a big, big stream of vaccines coming down the track but there is also a programme to accelerate the delivery of the Oxford vaccine, the remaining Pfizer vaccine is being brought forward, the Moderna vaccine as well.”