The number of people receiving their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine is expected to fall in Shropshire next month, an NHS chief has said.

David Evans, the accountable officer for the county’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, said the temporary move was not confirmed yet but was “realistically, probably the only option”.

Second doses will continue to be administered and existing appointments would be honoured, he added.

He told the Telford and Wrekin Health and Wellbeing Board that, after a slow start to the programme, more than 270,000 had received jabs across the whole of Shropshire, and thanked the councils and other agencies for helping achieve that.

Mr Evans said the vaccination programme “got off to a slow start” in the county.

“We always thought we were going to get off to a slow start, but the council and other partners have stepped up and helped us considerably with this,” he said, adding that Shropshire was now “one of the leading systems across the country in terms of vaccination”.

He said: “We are looking at the moment around capacity; we know there’s going to be a reduction in vaccine supply over the next our weeks because of the challenges around vaccine coming out of India, particularly.”

The Serum Institute of India, the country’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has in recent days delayed exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to several countries, including the UK, amid a surge in domestic cases.

Mr Evans said a decision had not been made, but it was likely “we will reduce the ability to book at the vaccination centres across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin for a short period during April”.

He added: “We will, of course, continue to give second doses and we will of course vaccinate those who have already booked into the programme, but otherwise we’re going to have a significant amount of capacity standing around with no-one to vaccinate.

“Now, the government and NHS nationally are very clear; we don’t want to move down the cohorts or bring forward second doses because we’re worried about the supply chain issue.

“So, realistically, reducing capacity at this stage is probably the only option on a temporary basis.”

He said discussions about this were likely to conclude “in the next 24 hours or so”.