The UK will not be involved in the European Union’s plans to fast track orders for a coronavirus vaccine, designed to ensure supplies for member states as soon as one is ready.
The UK will not formally be a part of the programme, but an EU spokesperson suggested it would be able to benefit from the scheme until the scheduled end for the Brexit transition period on December 31.
The bloc’s executive body will propose to its 27 member states that they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies as a united bloc and offer up-front financing to speed development and ensure priority access to any successful vaccine.
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The EU proposes using a ‘large majority’ of a €2.7bn emergency fund for the effort but is also committed to ensuring fair access worldwide to pandemic remedies.
It is reported that it is looking to buy six potential vaccines in deals in advance where the makers would commit to providing doses when and if they become available, as long as they are not produced solely in America.
The EU said that Washington has indicated it wants US-made medicines for itself.
‘We pay up front a significant part of the investment needed in exchange for a commitment from the pharmaceutical manufacturer to give us a vaccine when is available,’ an official told a news conference.
Another EU insider told the Financial Times: ‘What we want to do is to secure sufficient supplies to our member states, while also taking global responsibility. This is, in fact, in our own self-interest, because no region is safe until the virus is under control everywhere.’
It is not clear if a vaccine will be ready before the end of the transition period.
Naomi Smith from the pro-EU organisation Best for Britain said the UK government turning its back on EU co-operation will dismay the public.
She said: ‘By ending the transition period this year, the government is cutting Britain off from a possible route to a vaccine.
‘We cannot keep refusing all offers of cooperation with the EU over coronavirus. We rejected the chance to join the EU’s PPE bulk-buying scheme, to most people’s dismay.
‘The government needs to focus all of its energy on ending this public health crisis. That means working with the world to get a vaccine.’