COVID-19: How does the UK compare in Europe’s race for vaccines amid ‘shortage’ warning?

Pressure is ramping up in the race across Europe to roll out coronavirus vaccines, amid the warning of a “shortage”.

The EU is threatening to impose strict controls on the export of jabs made in the bloc, potentially impacting supplies of the Pfizer one that is made in Belgium.

It follows growing anger on the continent towards pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which is accused of failing to deliver the promised number of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

As the bid for mass-inoculation by countries gathers pace, Sky News looks at how the UK is faring versus other European countries:

More than 6.5 million people in the UK have had a dose of one of the coronavirus vaccines approved for use by the medicines regulator.

And around 7 million doses have been administered by health professionals, meaning the country is leading in total doses relative to its population compared to other EU countries.

But Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said there is a global “supply shortage” of the vaccines, as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand.

Referring to trouble brewing in Europe, including the German health ministry slapping down a local media report querying the efficacy of the Oxford vaccine, he said “of course there is a supply shortage”.

He explained: “If there were unlimited vaccines then you wouldn’t see what the European Commission were saying yesterday, you wouldn’t see Italy attempting to sue one of the manufacturers, you wouldn’t see Germany in uproar as it is today.

“Of course there’s a supply shortage, and we’ve done very well in this country to get the supply we have available to us, the question is how do we use it to best effect.”

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged countries “to be collaborative” in the roll-out of vaccines.

“I’m sure that we can work with the EU to ensure that, whilst transparency is welcome, that no blockers are put in
place,” he said at an event hosted by Chatham House.

“I’m confident of the supply of vaccine into the UK. I’m confident that won’t be disrupted.

“But I would urge all international partners in fact to be collaborative and working closely together, and I think protectionism is not the right approach in the middle of a pandemic.”

Number 10 said it was not expecting vaccine supply levels to change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “AstraZeneca are committed to delivering two million doses a week to the UK and we are not expecting any changes to that.”

He admitted the Pfizer vaccine supplies will see stocks drop as it upgrades its factory, but added the number of jabs should then increase again in March.

Asked what the UK would do if there was a block placed on the Pfizer vaccine arriving from Belgium, the spokesman said: “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals… We’re confident of our supplies.”

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