The vaccines minister has said he is confident the UK will continue to receive its deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab after the European Union threatened to block vaccine exports.
Nadhim Zahawi said the UK’s vaccination programme was still on track, including offering all adults a first dose by the autumn and 15 million of the most vulnerable a jab by February 15.
Asked whether the EU could prevent Pfizer vials leaving its borders, Zahawi told Sky News: “No, 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.
“We have got 367 million vaccines that we have ordered from seven different suppliers, so I’m confident we will meet our target and continue to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the autumn.”
Facing criticism of a slow rollout in the EU, the European Commission last night threatened to impose controls on vaccines.
European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides accused AstraZeneca, which works with Oxford University on its vaccine, of failing to give a valid explanation for failing to deliver doses to the bloc.
Warning that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, she said in a broadcast address that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.
She said: “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 Pfizer vaccine is manufactured in Europe but the bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured in the UK.
Zahawi admitted that supplies of vaccines “are tight”, telling BBC Breakfast: “It’s lumpy and bumpy, it gets better and stabilises and improves going forward.”
But he declined to spell out that he had received guarantees of the number of doses the UK would receive from Pfizer.