Birmingham leaders demand ‘clarity’ as city awaits deliveries of Oxford vaccine


Local leaders in Birmingham have said the city has not been supplied with stock of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with supplies of its Pfizer/BioNTech counterpart also due to “run out” on Friday.

In an open letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward called for exact data on constituency vaccination numbers to be shared with local officials.

The Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street disputed claims made by local leaders, saying there is “no threat” of the city’s supplies of coronavirus vaccine running out on Friday.

The letter, sent on behalf of Birmingham’s ten MPs, including Sutton Coldfield’s Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, sought “urgent clarity and reassurance” regarding the vaccination rollout across the city over the coming weeks and months.

It read: “With the new national lockdown now in force and Covid rates continuing to climb, vaccination offers our only realistic hope of a return to normal life and it is therefore not surprising that many of those we represent are contacting us directly for updates and answers on the progress being made with vaccine penetration.

“It is clear that we are expected and will be expected to know the answer to a rolling series of questions, and we are clear that this is information that we should have, and which must be collected.”

The letter, tweeted by Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow mayor for the West Midlands, also asked for data on take-up and refusals, to highlight any areas where resistance to vaccination needs to be addressed.

As well as a list of all organisations delivering vaccines in Birmingham, local leaders are also demanding a realistic forecast of how many vaccinations were expected to be administered in the following week, and assurances that supplies of vaccines will keep pace with demand.

The letter continued: “We acknowledge that the vaccination rollout is in its early days but we have also learned today that Birmingham has not yet been supplied with any AstraZeneca stock, while current Pfizer stocks are scheduled to run out on Friday this week with currently no clarity on when further supplies will arrive.

“It remains unclear who is responsible for overseeing the vaccination programme in Birmingham and whom we should hold to account for progress and delivery.

“I am sure you would agree that such a lack of transparency is unhelpful and frustrating.

“As members of Parliament throughout Britain’s second city we are absolutely clear that we need the following information on a constituency-by-constituency basis and hope that we may look to you as Secretary of State to make sure that we receive it.

“We appreciate the ongoing herculean efforts of everyone involved in this rollout from the top of Government to local delivery.”

Responding to the letter in a series of tweets, former John Lewis boss Mr Street accused Birmingham’s MPs and the council leader of spreading “misinformation” during a pandemic.

Mr Street said: “Deeply disappointing to see elected politicians misleading the public over the vaccine situation in Birmingham today, at a time when we should all be pulling together to get through this crisis.”

He tweeted: “Here is the truth: 1) New Pfizer vaccination stock has been ordered, and is in sufficient supply. It has always been the plan that @uhbtrust would order more as they reached the end of current supplies, and there is no threat of them running out tomorrow.

“2) I have personally spoken to the vaccinations minister @nadhimzahawi who has reassured me that the new AstraZeneca vaccine will be arriving in the city tomorrow.

“As I hope is now clear, the idea that Birmingham will have no vaccines from tomorrow onwards is completely false. Misinformation that causes undue concern is not what the public need in the middle of a pandemic.”

A spokesman for the NHS in the Black Country and West Birmingham said: “We can confirm that some PCNs (primary care networks) across the Black Country and West Birmingham are due to receive the Oxford vaccine this week, however these are not yet confirmed.

“The Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures and is much easier to move, making it easier to use.

“Therefore when PCNs begin to receive these they will be used to vaccinate care homes and patients who are housebound in the first instance.”