Coronavirus vaccine: UK exceeds 25 million first doses given
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The Prime Minister will speak to leaders one-on-one this week, putting forward the case that the EU should not prevent exports of vaccine to the UK. His intervention will come ahead of a virtual summit on Thursday, where EU leaders will discuss whether to “forbid” the shipment of continent-made jabs to Britain. UK sources have described the potential ban as “concerning”, while some EU officials believe the bloc and Britain should “calm down”.
A Downing Street source claimed the Prime Minister has already spoken to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week over the proposed export ban.
The source told the Financial Times Mr Johnson has also spoken to Dutch and Belgian prime ministers Mark Rutte and Alexander De Croo on the matter.
It follows Ms von der Leyen noting 41 million vaccine doses have been exported from the EU to 33 countries in six weeks, with more than 10 million jabs going to the UK.
She also warned the bloc can “forbid” any more from being exported and insisted suppliers must abide by their contracts, adding: “That is the message to AstraZeneca.”
It follows the EU rejecting calls for AstraZeneca vaccines produced in a Dutch facility to be sent to the UK.
The Leiden-based AstraZeneca plant is run by sub-contractor Halix and is contracted to supply both the UK and the EU with vaccine doses.
An EU official said the deliveries to Britain will not be fulfilled, and told Reuters: “The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them.
“That doesn’t work.”
They added: “What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU.”
In response to the vaccine row, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Sunday that the EU should not “build walls” around the distribution of vaccines.
He told the BBC: “Trying to… build walls around this would only damage both EU citizens and United Kingdom.”
EU commissioner Mairead McGuinness also insisted no decisions had been made on a possible export ban and urged both Brussels and Britain to “calm down”.
She added: “We all need to calm down and look, if you like, very dispassionately at the situation around raw materials for vaccines, how they are produced and where we might ramp up that production.
Should the EU introduce a vaccine export ban for the UK, research carried out by Airfinity for The Guardian said it would delay Britain’s vaccine rollout by around two months.
The gains from it would also be minimal for the bloc, with Airfinity saying an export ban would speed up the full vaccination of every adult in the EU by “just over a week”.
The EU has had a slow vaccine rollout due to issues with production and supply, with issues beginning in January when AstraZeneca told the bloc their initial shipment of jabs will be 60 percent lower than expected.
Since then, the bloc has introduced export controls on vaccines, with Italy using the powers to prevent a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from being sent to Australia.
In January, the EU briefly triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent the shipment of vaccine through Ireland into Britain, but swiftly backtracked.
Yesterday saw another 5,312 cases and 33 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test recorded.
In total, the UK has seen 4,296,583 cases and 126,155 deaths.
The UK has also administered 27,630,970 first doses of coronavirus vaccine, and 2,228,772 second jabs.
Saturday also saw the UK break its record for the most vaccines administered in a day, at 844,285.
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