Question Time guest: Many UK citizens are ‘dependent’ on EU
The European Union has been locked in a row with AstraZeneca, which partnered with Britain’s Oxford University to develop its vaccine, after the drugmaker said last week it would cut deliveries in the first quarter due to production issues at a Belgian factory. UK ministers have said this will not affect Britain’s supply. One Brit however explained that many people in the UK rely on medicines which are only produced in the EU and could face serious consequences should the row escalate.
Speaking to BBC Question Time, she said: “I agree that on a global level we’re pretty much now in a race between the vaccine and the virus meaning the race to get people vaccinated before the virus moves on and renders our vaccines useful.
“Whilst I as a healthcare professional would love nothing more to see the whole of the UK population vaccinated, I feel that is not a forward-thinking approach.
“I think it’s important to say that if we’re going to get into nationalism around vaccines and medicines, many UK citizens are dependent on medications that are only produced in the EU.
“There may be consequences to this.”
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Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said there “will be no interruption” to UK vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca after the European Union demanded doses from British plants during a row over supply shortages.
Mr Gove said on Thursday the “first and most important thing” is that the supply schedule agreed with the UK-based pharmaceuticals giant is honoured so the domestic vaccine rollout can be delivered before neighbouring nations are aided.
But Downing Street declined to rule vaccines being sent to the EU before everyone in the UK is vaccinated to help address supply shortages being faced by the bloc.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said there have been “constructive” talks with AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot after telling the firm it is contractually obliged to send jabs produced in the UK to 27 EU member states.
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Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “First thing, we must make sure that we continue with the effective acceleration of our vaccination programme.
“That relies on the supply schedule that has been agreed to be honoured. That’s the first and most important thing.”
“Secondarily,” he said, the desire is to ensure allies receive vaccines but he added that “I think we best achieve that through dialogue and cooperation and friendship”.
Pressed on whether the Government would allow vaccines to go to the EU, he said: “No, the critical thing is we must make sure that the schedule that has been agreed and on which our vaccination programme has been based and planned goes ahead.
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“It is the case that the supplies that have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue, absolutely. There will be no interruption to that.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman failed to give a definitive answer when repeatedly pressed on whether jabs could be sent to Europe before everyone in the UK receives a dose.
Instead, he said: “We will offer doses to the priority groups and all adults by September that continues to be the case.”
The European Commission remained resolute, with spokesman Eric Mamer saying “we can and will” get doses from plants, including those in the UK.
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