Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday: “The rate-limiting factor at the moment, as they say, is supply not distribution.”
The UK’s four chief medical officers wrote to doctors on New Year’s Eve, claiming “vaccine shortage is a reality that cannot be wished away” and justifying a new vaccination regime that has prompted the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of jabs.
In a separate statement, the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Department of Health, said: “The rate of vaccine delivery in the UK is currently limited by vaccine supply rather than by workforce capacity.”
NHS England also does not recognise a problem with vaccine supply, but starting the vaccination programme from scratch has limited its distribution to 250,000 jabs a week. In total, just over a million people had been vaccinated in the UK.
A Whitehall source said the NHS had “never said it could deliver two million vaccinations a week from the start” and that supply was not an issue. The source said starting the roll-out from scratch would take time.
On Friday, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, accused ministers of failing to put in place a proper rollout plan, saying: “Ministers have had months to prepare for this, and with the dangerous variation in the virus speeding up the spread it’s vital we start doing two million jabs a week now.
“Companies say they can make the doses available, so no more excuses – ministers need to get these life-saving injections rolled out ASAP.”