The UK government’s decision to opt-out of the EU’s coronavirus vaccine scheme has been condemned as “unforgivable” and driven by ideology rather than being in the best interests of the country.
Health secretary Matt Hancock today (Friday) confirmed the UK would not join the EU plan to distribute a potential vaccine.
Ministers expressed concerns about “costly delays” associated with the scheme while business secretary Alok Sharma is reported “to have walked away from the plan after failing to secure ‘sufficent assurance’ that the UK would receive the number of vaccines it needs on time.”
Global competition for vaccine will be fierce
Trials on potential vaccines are underway around the world and global competition to secure supplies of any drugs that prove successful is expected to be fierce.
The European Commission has been in “intensive” talks to make advance purchases of potential vaccines with the plan to distribute doses to those most in need. Hancock said Brexit means the UK would not have a decision making role as negotiations on purchases are made and that the government believes a quicker alternative to procure a vaccine for Britain exists.
“The terms just weren’t right for us,” said a government source, quoted in the Telegraph. “The EU scheme wouldn’t allow the UK to do anything more than it currently is.”
Need not ability to pay is morally and scientifically best way to beat virus
Head of global policy at the Wellcome Trust, Alex Harris, said: “The EU vaccine initiative’s cap on how many doses participating countries get is the best way to ensure there is enough vaccine for those in need in the rest of the world.”
Harris added: “Delivering vaccine according to need and not who can pay the highest price is not just morally right, but also the fastest way to end this pandemic.
“We urge the UK government to follow the EU’s lead and only secure vaccine doses for those who need it most – healthcare workers, over-65s and other vulnerable groups.”
Govt’s anti-EU stubbornness is ‘unforgivable’
Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats Munira Wilson slammed the government saying “ministers should leave no stone unturned in their bid to end the pandemic”.
Wilson said: “This government’s stubborn unwillingness to work with the European Union through the current crisis is unforgivable. The crisis does not stop at any national border. It is about time the prime minister started showing leadership, including fully participating in all EU efforts to secure critical medical supplies and a vaccine.”
The decision to opt-out of the EU scheme would “not damage the efforts” being undertaken by the government’s Vaccines Task Force (VTF), insisted a government source.
The VTF is coordinating efforts to research and produce a safe vaccine while the government has also invested some £93 million in a Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre that is currently being built in Oxford.
The government has previously decided not to join any EU joint procurement schemes for ventilators or PPE.