UK government 'confident' in Pfizer jabs supply despite EU threat to block COVID vaccine exports

Watch: Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi says he is ‘confident’ in Pfizer vaccine supply

The UK is confident that supply of its Pfizer COVID-19 jabs will continue despite a threat from the EU to block vaccine exports.

The European Commission has warned it will impose controls on vaccines that could affect the UK’s supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which is shipped from its manufacturing base in Belgium.

But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Tuesday: “I’m confident that the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered.

“Pfizer have made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so.

“They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and for the rest of the world.”

Nurse Pat Sugden prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds, the first UK museum to host a COVID-19 vaccination centre, as BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin says he is confident vaccine will work on UK variant.
The UK's vaccines minister says he is confident in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. (PA)

The UK has secured access to 367 million vaccine doses from seven manufacturers, including 40 million from Pfizer.

In a separate interview with Times Radio, Zahawi said: “Vaccine nationalism is the wrong way to go. No one is safe until we’re all safe.”

“We need to work together rather than begin to muse policies of vaccine nationalism.”

Last week, the head of the World Health Organization warned that countries hoarding vaccines will “prolong the pandemic”.

A number of Conservative MPs are angry at the EU warning, with former party leader Iain Duncan Smith telling The Sun: “This behaviour is atrocious.

“The UK has quite legitimately opened up access to its vaccines and made it very clear it intends vaccines to be sent all around the world.

“Contrast that with the mean-spirited, selfish behaviour of the EU. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

The EU has been criticised for its slow rollout and is locked in a row with vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca, which says it is suffering production problems that have caused a shortfall of doses for member states.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides accused AstraZeneca, which worked with Oxford University on the vaccine’s development, of failing to give a valid explanation for the shortfall.

She said: “We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU.

“In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.

“The European Union will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights.”

She warned that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

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And German health minister Jens Spahn said: “We, as the EU, must be able to know whether and what vaccines are being exported from the EU.

“Only that way can we understand whether our EU contracts with the producers are being served fairly.”

Talks on Monday between the EU and AstraZeneca over rollout delays ended in “dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations”, the European Commission said. Discussions will resume on Wednesday.

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However, the UK government said it is confident it will reach its target of offering a vaccine dose to 15 million people by the middle of February.

The AstraZeneca jab is largely being manufactured in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire.

According to the government, more than 6.5 million people have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 470,000 having a second jab.

Watch: ‘Unacceptable’ vaccine delays cause frustration across EU