Britain confident that vaccine makers will deliver for both UK and EU

Britain is seeking to give initial shots to 15mln of the most at-risk people by mid-February

  

LONDON - Britain and the European Union should both get the vaccines they have ordered and it is wrong to respond to supply problems with restrictions, Nadhim Zahawi, the British COVID-19 vaccine deployment minister, said on Tuesday.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier backed EU proposals to restrict vaccines leaving the bloc, saying Europe should have its "fair share". 

Zahawi said that he was confident the manufacturers of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for British use, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, would be able to meet their supply obligations, for both Britain and the EU.

The EU proposal comes in the wake of AstraZeneca's decision to cut its supply to the EU by 60% to 31 million doses for the first quarter of the year, while Pfizer has also altered delivery schedules. 

"I'm very confident that Pfizer... will deliver for the EU and will deliver for the UK, as will AstraZeneca," Zahawi told Times Radio. "Vaccine nationalism is the wrong way to go. No one is safe until we're all safe."

AstraZeneca has a domestic British supply chain to make its vaccine, but Britain's supplies of the Pfizer vaccine come from a factory in Belgium.

The total projected amount of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine supplied to Britain between January and March is unchanged by a planned upgrade at a production facility.

But Britain has consistently said that supply is limiting the pace of its vaccine rollout, although it expects early wrinkles to be ironed out over time.

"Supplies are tight... they continue to be," Zahawi told BBC TV. "Any new manufacturing process is going to have challenges, it's lumpy and bumpy, (then) it gets better, it stabilises and improves going forward."

Britain is seeking to give initial shots to 15 million of the most at-risk people by mid-February.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Michael Holden, additional reporting by James Davey; Editing by Alexander Smith) ((alistair.smout@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7064; Reuters Messaging: alistair.smout.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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