UK government urged to join EU coronavirus vaccine scheme

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. PA Video/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Health minister Matt Hancock has been urged to sign the UK up to an EU initiative which would fast-track a possible coronavirus vaccine.

The European Union has launched a new scheme to work with six possible coronavirus manufacturers, allowing member states to pool resource and work together to buy sufficient supplies, should a solution become available.

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.

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Britain has the option to take part in the scheme, but an EU spokesperson suggested it had not opted-in.

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It does, however, have the option to join the scheme up until the end of the Brexit transition period, which is due to come to an end on 31 December 2020.

It follows claims it was a 'political' decision not to join similar schemes to jointly procure potentially life-saving medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Now Lib Dem leadership hopeful Layla Moran has written to the health minister calling on the government to take part in the EU vaccine scheme and extend the transition period, to ensure the country can continue to benefit if a vaccine is developed next year.

'The government must put lives before ideology and join EU efforts to secure access to a coronavirus vaccine,' Moran said.

'Working together with our neighbours will increase the chances of developing an effective vaccine and deploying it around Europe and the world as soon as possible.

'Opportunities have already been missed to take part in vital EU schemes that could have helped the NHS combat this pandemic by securing life-saving equipment. We must ensure those mistakes aren't made again.'

She added: 'This should go hand in hand with an extension to the transition period, to ensure the UK can continue to benefit from this EU-wide scheme if a vaccine is developed next year.'

Moran is standing in the contest for Liberal Democrat leader against Wera Hobhouse and interim leader Ed Davey.

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