Vaccine Minister reassures over European supplies
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has moved to quell concerns over the supply of vaccines from the EU into the UK and to discourage countries for engaging in “vaccine nationalism”. Zahawi stated that he believes Government will not be hindered by supply problems in its goals to vaccinate the first four most vulnerable groups to the virus. In an interview with BBC Breakfast, he said he was “confident” that manufacturers would continue supplies despite a warning of disruption delays which has led to consternation on the part of the EU Commission. "Supplies are tight, they continue to be, these are new manufacturing processes," said Zahawi. "It's lumpy and bumpy, it gets better and stabilises and improves going forward."
The Minister declined to say whether he had received guarantees about the number of doses the UK would receive from Pfizer, nor did he disclose the amount of vaccine supplies that are already in the country, figures that experts say could pose a security risk if publicised. Pfizer has said that it must lower its production capacity of its vaccine due to restructuring of a plant in Belgium in order for it to increase output in the face of massive vaccine demand. In another blow to vaccine availability, AstraZeneca told the EU that it cannot guarantee the delivery of up to 60% of the EU’s vaccine order.
Downing Street also rejected German media reports claiming a very low efficacy rate for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among older people, saying they had been denied by Oxford University, AstraZeneca and the German health ministry. Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, also defended the 12-week immunisation gap strategy which allows for more vulnerable people to access their first dose. He told the Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Tuesday that the "great majority" of protection came from the first dose.