No10 plays down prospects of handing spare Covid vaccines to Ireland before JULY saying Britons take ‘priority’ despite claims 3.7m doses could be gifted as ‘poke in the eye’ for struggling EU
- Downing Street plays down prospects of handing over vaccines to Ireland soon
- Claims UK is ready to hand surplus vaccines to Ireland in ‘poke in the eye’ for EU
- More than 500,000 doses of new Moderna vaccine to arrive in UK imminently
Downing Street today played down the prospects of spare coronavirus vaccines being handed to Ireland before July.
The PM’s spokesman stressed that the ‘first priority’ is still to cover all UK adults, despite claims that 3.7million doses have been earmarked for gifting in a ‘poke in the eye’ for the EU’s slow rollout.
The comments came as Northern Ireland politicians backed the principle of sharing British supplies, with speeding the Republic’s progress considered crucial for easing the lockdown safely on the island.
Asked about reports that the government is ready to offer spare vaccines as early as next week, No10 said: ‘We don’t currently have a surplus of vaccines but we will consider how they are best allocated as they become available.’
Pressed on whether that meant supplies would not be shared until every single adult in the UK has been offered a vaccine, the spokesman said: ‘Our first priority is to protect the British public.
‘So, of course we want to ensure that we have offered all of those over 50 their first dose by April 15, and then we provide all adults with their first dose by the end of July, as we continue to work through our road map.’
DUP First Minister Arlene Foster (pictured right today with Sinn Fein deputy Michelle O’Neill left) said she discussed the issue of gifting vaccines with Boris Johnson when he visited a vaccination centre in Fermanagh earlier this month
Ireland’s vaccine rollout has been lagging behind the UK’s – causing problems for lockdown easing in Northern Ireland
A spokesman for the PM (pictured out running today) played down the prospect of any vaccines being given to Ireland soon
Dublin said yesterday that it was ‘not aware’ of any offers from the UK to share coronavirus vaccines – despite suggestions Cabinet ministers view the move as ‘good politics’ as well as solving a ‘genuine’ issue about the gulf in vaccination rates on the island.
As of yesterday more than 850,000 Covid-19 vaccines had been administered in Northern Ireland – with over half the population having received their first dose.
By contrast in the Republic the proportion of people covered has only crested a tenth.
DUP First Minister Arlene Foster said she discussed the issue of gifting vaccines with Boris Johnson when he visited a vaccination centre in Fermanagh earlier this month.
‘I think he does understand the difficulties, particularly around border areas and the movement of people in relation to vaccination,’ she said.
‘If there is surplus vaccine then we should share it with our nearest neighbours out of neighbourliness but also out of the fact it will have an impact of course on us here in Northern Ireland, so there’s a very practical reason why I believe that should happen.’
Ms Foster’s Sinn Fein deputy Michelle O’Neill said she would like to see more co-operation with Ireland.
‘What happens across these two islands has implications because we move freely across the two islands, so it is crucially important that we have an all-island approach to dealing with vaccination rollout,’ she said.
‘It’s the right thing to do, it’s the good thing to do. It’s responding to a global pandemic and we are all in this together, so we need to work together in order to protect our people. I would like to see a lot more co-operation as we come out of this period and into the future.’
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said yesterday he was unaware of an offer of vaccines but would be ‘very interested’ in talking to the British government.
He told Sky News: ‘There isn’t an offer that I’m aware of, or that the government’s aware of, from the UK.
‘Of course, if there was we’d be very interested in talking to the British government about that.’
Government sources have stressed that Easter will be too early to know whether spare jabs will be available.
Any allocations to other countries would depend on ‘supply chain reliability’ and whether booster doses are needed in the Autumn.
The UK’s stunning vaccination rollout is expected to move up another gear next month when the Moderna jab is deployed for the first time.
The imminent arrival of more than 500,000 doses of the new US vaccine – to add to millions of Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots – will herald the expansion of the programme to the under-50s.
Doctors are expected to administer the first Moderna jabs within three weeks.
The Republic has said it is not aware of any UK plans to gift vaccines. Pictured, Irish PM Micheal Martin
Ursula von der Leyen has been under massive pressure for the EU’s shambolic vaccine rollout
Moderna, which was codenamed ‘Renown’ by the Government during the American company’s development process, is being manufactured by the Swiss-based Lonza biotech company
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